Consultants in England have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a revised offer from the government in a major breakthrough which brings an end to their strike action.

The deal will help address the gender pay gap in medicine, and also gives consultants more clarity on their pay progression arrangements.

It also provides consultants with more confidence in the review body that advises government on rates of pay for doctors and dentists.

The core contract for consultants has not been updated for 20 years and this offer will deliver reform to reflect modern ways of working, such as enhanced shared parental leave, in line with other NHS staff.

This outcome demonstrates that approaching negotiations in good faith and with reasonable expectations can lead to a good outcome for taxpayers, staff and patients, and a good deal for doctors and healthcare workers.

This now ends the prospect of damaging strike action by consultants that has had a detrimental impact on patients and the NHS, and will allow consultants to focus their efforts on further reductions to waiting times for patients.  

Significant progress has been made recently, with overall NHS waiting lists decreasing for four months in a row by a total of 192,000 – despite winter pressures and industrial action by junior doctors.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:

The end of consultant strike action in the NHS is excellent news for patients. It will mean we can continue making progress towards our goal of cutting the waiting lists, which have now fallen for the fourth month in a row.

Consultants perform a vital role at the heart of the NHS – I’m pleased they’ve accepted this deal, which is fair for them and fair for the taxpayer.

Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins said:

I hugely value the work of NHS consultants and I am pleased that, after weeks of negotiations, they have accepted this fair and reasonable offer, putting an end to the threat of further strike action.

Consultants will now be able to focus on providing the highest quality care for patients and we can consolidate our progress on waiting lists – which have fallen for the past four months.

This deal directly addresses gender pay issues in the NHS and enhances consultants’ parental leave options – representing a fair deal for consultants, patients, and taxpayers.

Constructive talks between the government and the unions were reopened in February and all parties negotiated in good faith after the initial offer was narrowly rejected. 

The deal adds further clarity and specificity to the original offer, while addressing some of the concerns that consultants have raised. 

It continues to invest in modernising the consultants’ pay structure – reducing the number of pay points and the time it takes to reach the top, effective from 1 March. 

The pay scale reforms will also help mitigate the gender pay gap by delivering a key recommendation made by Professor Dame Jane Dacre in her review on the gender pay gap in medicine.

To enable these reforms, unions have agreed to end Local Clinical Excellence Awards (LCEAs) going forward – an employer-level bonus scheme – which have been seen to contribute to pay inequalities. 

The British Medical Association (BMA) has also agreed to end the use of its rate card, which advises doctors on how much to charge for non-contractual work, including cover during strikes.

Moving forward, the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan will support the NHS to address existing vacancies and meet the challenges of a growing and ageing population by training, recruiting and retaining hundreds of thousands more staff over the next 15 years – backed by more than £2.4 billion in government investment.

Source: Department of Health and Social CareThe Rt Hon Victoria Atkins MP, and The Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP

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