Striking junior doctors will be offered an extra £1,000 on top of 6% pay rise in bid to avert further devastating NHS walk-outs
- It is understood that ministers are minded to accept the £1k recommendation
- READ MORE: Junior doctors will strike for FIVE consecutive days next month
Junior doctors are set to be offered an additional £1,000 on top of a 6 per cent pay rise in a bid to avert further devastating strikes.
It is understood that ministers are minded to accept the recommendation from the independent pay review body for the financial year 2023/24.
It comes as the government is trying to bring down inflation and while the medics are still rowing over an offer for 2022/23.
The British Medical Association is demanding a pay rise of 35 per cent for junior doctors this year and 49 per cent if agreed as part of a two year settlement.
But health secretary Steve Barclay says this is unrealistic and unaffordable and has offered them just 5 per cent for the current year.
Health bosses were forced to cancel 108,602 appointments and operations when junior doctors withdrew care for three days last week, including from cancer wards and A&E. It took the total number of postponements as a result of strike action by the likes of junior doctors, nurses, and physiotherapists to 651,232 since December
The union has announced up to 47,600 medics below the rank of consultant will strike for five consecutive days from July 13 if the government does not cave in to their demands.
It would best the longest walkout in the history of the NHS and is likely to result in the cancellation of almost 200,000 appointments and operations.
It also will leave just one day before a proposed two-day strike by consultants, which is expected to make the impact even more disruptive.
Health leaders admitted the announcement of five days of strikes left them with a ‘sinking feeling’ and warned it could leave patients with more severe health complications.
Amanda Pritchard, the chief executive of NHS England, said a three-day walkout by juniors earlier this month posed a ‘serious risk to patient safety’.
Salaries for public sector workers are set by Government ministers, who consider formal recommendations from pay review bodies.
A pay deal for 1million NHS staff, including nurses, pandemics and physiotherapists, has already been announced for this year but pay for doctors remains undecided.
The Department of Health and Social Care confirmed it has now received a recommendation from the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration (DDRB) for 2023/24, which it is ‘considering carefully’ and will publish alongside its response shortly.
On a visit to Nottinghamshire, Rishi Sunak warned that people ‘might not like’ the decisions he needs to take to bring down rampant inflation.
The recommendation proposes that the healthcare workers it covers are given a 6 per cent pay rise for the year 2023/24, which runs from April 2023 to March 2024.
Any salary rises would be backdated to April.
However, an additional consolidated payment of around £1,000 has been proposed specifically for junior doctors.
Rishi Sunak warned he will not shy away from making decisions ‘people may not like’ to control inflation as he refused to commit to accepting recommendations for public sector pay rises.
Ministers have suggested they could choose to ignore advice by the independent review bodies as part of UK Government attempts to calm the rate of rising prices — an option the Prime Minister has refused to take off the table.
READ MORE: Rishi Sunak hints he WILL refuse big public sector pay recommendations saying people ‘may not like’ the decisions needed to curb inflation
He has set halving inflation by the end of the year as his top priority ahead of a likely general election in 2024.
But inflation has stayed stubbornly high, with the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation remaining at 8.7 per cent in May despite experts forecasting it would fall.
Speaking to broadcasters during a trip to Nottinghamshire, Mr Sunak argued that, with inflation ‘higher than we’d like’, it was important to ‘make the right and responsible decisions on things like public sector pay’.
He said further walkouts being planned by junior doctors were ‘very disappointing’ and claimed this would ‘make it harder’ to bring down NHS waiting lists – another of his five key pledges to the electorate.
‘It’s just going to make it harder to bring waiting lists down and I think people should recognise the economic context we’re in.
‘I’m going to make the decisions that are the right ones for the country.
‘That’s not always easy, people may not like that, but those are the right things for everybody that we get a grip of inflation.’
Pay review body recommendations are not legally binding on the Government and, although they are typically accepted, ministers can generally choose to reject or partially ignore the advice.
But this would be a controversial move after the Government defended last year’s below-inflation pay rises by saying it had followed the bodies’ advice.
It could further inflame ongoing disputes with unions and lead to more industrial action.
Kate Bell, assistant general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), said any decision to ignore pay review body advice would be ‘driven by politics, not economics’.
She said public sector wages had fallen ‘well behind inflation’ and that there had been a ’15-year wage squeeze where wages haven’t kept up with inflation’.
‘We had the Government, back in the winter when they were refusing to negotiate with NHS workers — eventually, of course, they did come to the table — relying very heavily on the pay review bodies, saying we had to take into account this independent process,’ she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
‘It is a bit rich to hear them now saying, ‘Well, we’re going to overturn those independent recommendations’ when we haven’t even seen them be published yet.’
A long-term NHS workforce plan will be published this week, announcing more healthcare apprenticeships and a doubling of the number of places in medical schools from 7,500 to 15,000.
The BMA declined to comment on the ‘speculative’ pay reports and said it would await more clarity before deciding its next steps.
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