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England’s Senior Doctors Vote to Strike as Action by Nurses Ends

England’s Senior Doctors Vote to Strike as Action by Nurses Ends
Junior doctors march towards the venue of the NHS ConfedExpo conference at a protest during the second day of strike action in Manchester, UK, on Thursday, June 15, 2023. The British Medical Association's industrial action follows a similar 72-hour walkout in March and a 96-hour protest in April. Photographer: Mary Turner/Bloomberg

Senior doctors in England voted to strike after a separate ballot among nurses fell short of the threshold needed for them to continue months of damaging industrial action.

Some 86% of consultants balloted chose to take action, on a 71% turnout, the British Medical Association said Tuesday in an emailed statement. Unless the government presents a “credible” pay offer, they’ll walk out July 20-21, it said, confirming strike dates it had previously announced.

The announcement came just hours after the Royal College of Nursing said 84% of members backed further walkouts as part of a long-running protest over pay, but on a 43% turnout that fell short of the 50% required.

The latest BMA announcement means that the National Health Service faces more damaging industrial action as consultants join junior doctors in walking out, putting at risk Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s promise to get waiting lists down. His spokesman, Max Blain, on Tuesday told reporters that strikes since December caused some 600,000 appointments to be delayed.

A Record Number of England's Patients Are Awaiting Health Care |

Britain’s stubborn inflation has led to a wave of strikes in sectors spanning health care, public transport, mail and the civil service as workers struggle with a cost-of-living crisis. Nurses’ wages have fallen 20% in real terms since 2010, according to research by the London Economics consultancy, commissioned by the RCN.

Nevertheless, Sunak has pushed back against large pay demands from striking unions, arguing his priority is to bear down on sticky inflation and avoid a wage-price spiral.

The BMA said that take-home pay for consultants in England has fallen by 35% in the past 15 years.

The government’s latest pay offer to nurses and other NHS staff — but not doctors — was accepted by most labor groups representing National Health Service workers in April. However, the RCN rejected the proposal and re-balloted its members for extra strikes despite the raise coming into effect. Failure to meet the required voting threshold means they won’t be able to extend their action.

Number of NHS England workers | Full-time equivalent professionally qualified clinical staff

Pat Cullen, the RCN’s general secretary, has called for a double-digit pay rise for nurses as inflation in the UK has stuck higher than in many peer countries, and remains at 8.7% having exceeded 11% last year. On Tueday, she said the fight for higher pay “is far from over.” Nurses began a historic series of strikes toward the end of last year.

The government is expected to make an announcement on its workforce plans for the NHS this week.

Read More: Stubborn UK Inflation Triggers a Mortgage Crisis for Millions

After the RCN ballot, a spokesperson for the Department of Health said it welcomed “the end to hugely disruptive industrial action so staff can continue caring for patients and cutting waiting lists.”

Doctors were not included in April’s pay deal and are subject to separate negotiations. Junior doctors are due to hold five consecutive days of strikes next month.

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