Premium Pay Demands Leave NHS Bosses Unsympathetic

Topics covered: doctors, NHS, pay, strikes

As many will be aware, strikes have been ever-present in the healthcare sector, only serving to aggravate staffing crisis. In particular, NHS staff are extremely dissatisfied with their pay and demanding they get the recognition they deserve by means of pay rises to battle the 26% decrease after inflation is taken into account.

Recently, the British Medical Association (BMA) announced that it will proceed to a formal ballot for strike action after a consultative ballot showed that 86% of consultants were in favour of industrial action.

Consultants are expected to cover for the 72-hour strike planned by junior doctors between 13 and 16 march 2023, leaving them in charge of A&E units. 40% of the medical workforce is deemed to be junior doctors and two thirds of them are thought to be BMA members. This means that only one third of the workforce will be left to cover the 72-hour period.

However, it has been reported that BMA recommended its members charge £152 an hour in the daytime, £210 in the evening and £262 for night shifts. NHS bosses are not happy with this and claim that these pay demands are unreasonable. BMA has argued that this is perfectly acceptable because their members need to be compensated more for work which is outside their normal contract such as being asked to move from their normal speciality or being required to take on extra shifts or fulfil roles that junior doctors normally would.

Consultants typically earn somewhere between £88,000 and £119,000 a year, in basic pay, which equates to £42-£57 an hour for the average 40-hour week. This means the pay recommendations that the BMA has made amount to a nearly 300% increase in pay, if not more.

This has put NHS bosses in an extremely tough position as they try fill the gaps in emergency care. According to Danny Mortimer, the chief executive of NHS Employers, the sympathy that NHS bosses did have for doctors is being “eroded” by the demands for premium pay, stating “If their dispute is with the government with regards to both pay and pensions, it seems unreasonable to act without first seeking any kind of agreement with employers.

There has allegedly been no consultation with the NHS bosses regarding the rates, which are included on the BMA’s rate card used for extra hours beyond contracted work. This rate card was introduced by BMA after some NHS trusts attempted to cap overtime pay. BMA, therefore, thinks that the rate card is the ideal tool to use when determining compensation for working over the strike period.  

According to Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA consultants leader,  “On strike days it is the responsibility of employers to ensure that services are staffed safely, and they have been given adequate notice of when the action is set to take place. The BMA rate card rates are recommended for all work undertaken outside of the normal contract… These rates therefore reflect the market value of doctors’ work.”

It seems that NHS bosses and the BMA are at a stand-still and there are only four days left to resolve it.

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