Senior NHS doctors strike across Birmingham and West Midlands - here’s why

Consultant doctors and hospital-based dentists are currently taking part in strike action across the West Midlands

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Consultant doctors and hospital-based dentists in Birmingham and across the country are currently striking for better pay and conditions.

Dozens of senior doctors joined picket lines outside the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Thursday and today (Friday, July 21) as NHS consultants and hospital-based dentists take part in industrial action for 48 hours (from Thursday, July 20) until 7am on Saturday (July 22).

Industrial action from consultants comes after the government announced a “final pay offer” of a six per cent pay increase for NHS nurses, consultants, dentists and more - but the British Medical Association (BMA) has criticised this for still being less than staff were paid in real terms than 15 years ago.

The walkouts took place from 7am on Thursday and will last until 7am on Saturday following the longest period of industrial action in the history of the NHS by junior doctors which lasted five days. Health leaders have said any planned care delivered by junior doctors or other healthcare professionals that requires even remote consultant supervision will need to be rescheduled as no other clinicians can provide cover for consultants.

NHS England said this will lead to a “significant amount” of planned care involving junior doctors being affected. The strikes mean only emergency care and a small amount of routine work will be provided until Saturday. GP practices across Birmingham and the wider region will continue to be open during the strike.

What’s happened in Birmingham?

This is the first time consultants have taken part in strike action since 2012. One consultant on the picket line in Birmingham told BBC News that their pay had fallen by 35% in real terms since 2008. He said this meant the profession was struggling to recruit staff.

Dr Mike Henley, a member of the British Medical Association (BMA) consultants committee was on the picket line outside the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Thursday. He told the BBC that the BMA is “really struggling to recruit and retain doctors,” due to pay falling by 35% in real terms since 2008. He said this has led to “worsening waiting times” for the public who need to use NHS services.

What has the government said about the strikes?

Health Secretary Steve Barclay has urged consultants to put an end to their strike action. He said: “This government has also reformed pension tax rules for consultants, something the BMA campaigned for over many years.

“I am disappointed the BMA is going ahead with this week’s strike, given the average consultant’s NHS earnings are expected to increase to £134,000 a year. My door is always open to discuss non-pay issues, but this pay award is final so I urge the BMA to end their strikes immediately.”

BMA strikes are taking place across the countryBMA strikes are taking place across the country
BMA strikes are taking place across the country

In a statement, consultants’ committee chair Dr Vishal Sharma said said Barclay had met doctors just once in seven months and had refused further talks on pay. Analysis shows consultant pay has fallen way behind the likes of lawyers, architects and financial advisers, the BMA said.

When is the next NHS consultants’ strike?

Consultants in England are set hold another 48 hour strike next month, on Thursday 24 and Friday 25 August.

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