Thousands of NHS consultant doctors are on strike for 48 hours from Thursday until 7am Saturday which will cause large scale disruption for patients which is “likely to be the biggest yet.”
Thousands of operations and procedures with appointments have been cancelled as a result which comes as junior doctors are also on strike for five days.
Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers, told the PA news agency: “The impact of this strike on patients and services is likely to be the biggest yet.
“The NHS cannot fully function without consultants.”
Committee chair Dr Vishal Sharma of the British Medical Association (BMA) said, “This dispute is not just about one year’s pay settlement, it is about the reality of 14 years of consultant pay falling behind, about our a loss in our pay in real terms of 35% and the broken pay review system that has allowed this to happen.
“Last week, the Prime Minister described the pay review body’s 6% pay uplift as a ‘significant pay award, one of the most significant we’ve had in decades’ and yet our profession languishes so far behind tens of thousands of other workers in terms of our pay and working conditions.
“Consultants will stand on the picket lines today because we are angry and at rock bottom. We never wanted to be forced into taking this huge step.
“The Government has had seven months to work with us to take our concerns seriously, to listen to us and to find a way to avoid industrial action. Ministers have done absolutely nothing to stop this action taking place.
“We will be on the picket lines today, knowing our pay has flatlined so disastrously, knowing we are undervalued and overworked but also knowing that we remain willing to talk to Steve Barclay as he has the power to halt the strike action by presenting us with a credible offer that we put to our members.”
Sir Julian told PA that, as the NHS’s most senior doctors, consultants deliver the most complex care and supervise more junior colleagues.
He added: “Eight consecutive months of industrial action is significantly hampering trusts’ efforts to meet vital targets including reducing the waiting list for planned care – now at a record high of 7.47 million.
“The strikes are also eroding staff morale as well as local employment relations between trusts, hospitals and their staff.
“While the Government has recognised doctors and dentists deserve a pay rise, the figure has not been agreed by the relevant union.
“Further strike action can and must be averted. Both sides need to get round the table and find a way to agree on pay uplift that’s fully funded by the Government.”
The Health Secretary Steve Barclay 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.”