Intended for healthcare professionals


Strikes: what will it take to end the pay dispute and get doctors back to work?

BMJ 2023; 383 doi: (Published 03 October 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;383:p2272
  1. Ingrid Torjesen, freelance journalist
  1. London
  1. itorjesen{at}

The headlines might be about rises, but reform of the pay review process, the government showing that it values doctors, and trust between those two sides will be key to shutting down the escalating joint junior and consultant strikes, writes Ingrid Torjesen

Last month junior doctors and consultants in England took joint strike action for the very first time. Grasping their banners and umbrellas they stood shoulder to shoulder in front of their hospitals with a shared sense of purpose, discussing what exactly it would take to end the strikes. The answer for both groups: something akin to the junior doctors’ deal in Scotland.

This week, the joint strikes are back, and the BMA has issued a formal invitation to ministers to talks facilitated by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).1 So what will need to be on the table to move things forward and end the disputes—for consultants and juniors?

The Scotland deal includes an above inflation pay rise for 2023-24 (12.4%) plus a commitment to work towards pay restoration and reforming the pay review process: exactly what Vishal Sharma, chair of the BMA consultants committee, outlined in a previous letter to the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, and the secretary of state for health and social care, Steve Barclay, two days before the joint strike on 20 September.2

The BMA said in that first letter that it was “willing to consider investment in non-headline pay areas, to help reach agreement.” This would mean negotiating on areas outside of basic pay such as out-of-hours rates, pay scales, or prioritising investment towards specific pressure points such as acute and emergency care. The letter makes it clear that “constructive conversations” have taken place with “officials,” but that a firm offer that the BMA can put to members is needed …

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