Rishi Sunak made it clear that NHS pay deal is final
In his strongest message yet to striking doctors, Rishi Sunak has said the pay offer on the table “is final”.
The Prime Minister insisted “no amount” of industrial action will change the “very generous” deal and there will be “no more” talks this year.
He urged highly paid junior doctors and consultants who also benefit from gold-plated pensions to instead “play their part” in tackling treatment delays.
Writing in the Daily Express, Mr Sunak said: “I’ve made tackling waiting lists one of my five priorities. But the government can’t do it alone.
“This must be a national mission with everyone playing their part.
READ MORE: Check how your NHS trust compares as MILLIONS waiting for treatment in England
“I know that most doctors just want to get on with their life’s work of caring for patients.
“And in the end, no amount of strikes will change our decision.
“This offer is final. There will be no more talks on this year’s pay.
“And that is because it is not fair on taxpayers to give inflation-busting pay rises that would make our mission to bring down inflation only harder.
“The government has already backed the NHS with record funding.”
Mr Sunak said the BMA’s demand for a 35 percent pay rise is not “reasonable”, “affordable” or “fair”.
He called on the union to accept a deal that means junior doctors will receive a six per cent rise along with an additional consolidated £1,250 increase, while hospital consultants receive a six per cent rise.
NHS doctors on strike
The Prime Minister faced an attack by a junior doctor for pointing out the roll strikes are playing in pushing up waiting lists.
During an LBC radio phone-in on Wednesday, A&E registrar Olivia told the Prime Minister that “a happy workforce is your responsibility”.
She said: “I think it’s amazing that we’re blaming the increase in waiting lists on doctors going on strike.
“You’re losing staff because we’re undervalued and it’s not just doctors, it’s everyone, we’re all leaving.
“A happy workforce is your responsibility, you’re the Prime Minister, you’re the government, your staff aren’t happy, that’s your fault, and ultimately that’s not good for patients because retaining staff is one of the bedrocks of making sure that you have good patient safety, you cannot keep the NHS running with the staff shortages that it has and to keep us here you have to keep us happy, that is your job, none of us is happy.”
BMA consultants to stage more walkouts
Mr Sunak stood firm, insisting industrial action is behind the long delays patients are facing before getting treatment.
He said junior doctors and consultants were to blame for not accepting pay deals like other medical staff on lower salaries have done.
“That’s what’s causing the waiting lists to go up, I don’t think that’s right,” he said.
“I would say to them I’m very grateful and respectful of the incredible job you do but we all have a shared mission to bring the waiting lists down.”
Mr Sunak published a long-term workforce plan for the NHS in June that sets out a blueprint for training up more doctors, nurses and dentists to make the UK less reliant on staff from overseas.
He dismissed claims that staff are leaving to work in other countries, such as Australia.
“We looked at that as part of considering how to reform the workforce and that is a smaller phenomenon than people think,” he said.
Waiting times had already hit record highs in the wake of the covid pandemic when the unprecedented wave of strike action began with nurses walking out in December last year.
Latest official figures show that 7.47 million people were waiting to start routine hospital treatment at the end of May – the highest since records began in 2007.
When nurses staged their first walkout in December 2022, the official estimate had 7.2 million people on the waiting list.
Thousands of newly qualified doctors are facing calls to strike just nine days after starting work in England’s hospitals.
The BMA is staging a fresh four-day walkout that begins at 7am on August 11 – just nine days after Foundation Year 1 junior doctors start their first NHS jobs.
Those who have joined the union before are being encouraged to take to the picket line.
Junior doctors from the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) announced they would also strike during the same days.
It is the latest round of strikes from both junior doctors and consultants, which has led to the cancellation of tens of thousands of NHS appointments.
BMA consultants announced that further walkouts will take place shortly before the August bank holiday, on August 24 and 25.
Royal College of Nursing director for England Patricia Marquis said Mr Sunak’s comments add “insult to injury”.
She added: “Blaming nurses for the state of the NHS is a low blow. Nursing staff voted to strike last year out of concern at deteriorating care standards and spiralling waiting times.
“Waiting lists were growing long before the pandemic and strike action – and the Prime Minister should take responsibility for the knife-edge position of the NHS and not point the finger.”
The NHS is an institution the UK is rightly proud of. That is mostly thanks to the extraordinary men and women who work so hard to protect our nation’s health.
But for that reliable, high-quality service to continue, we need our brilliant doctors to be on the front-line treating patients. That’s why the government has made a very generous pay offer to doctors.
We have accepted in full the recommendations of the independent pay review bodies. That means our deal will increase the basic pay of a first-year junior doctor by 10.3 percent. And consultants’ starting pay will increase from around £88,300 to £93,600 a year.
Those are some of the biggest pay increases across the public sector. All on top of some of the most generous pension schemes in the country.
Our pay deal is fair, so I urge all doctors to know when to say yes and call off their strikes. That’s the right thing to do. Because every day of industrial action, tens of thousands of appointments are cancelled. And at a time when millions of people are already waiting for treatment, that’s causing waiting lists to go up, not down.
I’ve made tackling waiting lists one of my five priorities. But the government can’t do it alone. This must be a national mission with everyone playing their part.
I know that most doctors just want to get on with their life’s work of caring for patients. And in the end, no amount of strikes will change our decision.
This offer is final. There will be no more talks on this year’s pay.
And that is because it is not fair on taxpayers to give inflation-busting pay rises that would make our mission to bring down inflation only harder.
The government has already backed the NHS with record funding. We’ve kept our promise to recruit 26,000 more primary care staff. We’re very close to delivering our pledge to recruit 50,000 more nurses. And for the first time ever, we’ve announced a fully funded NHS Workforce Plan.
Over the next 15 years we’ll recruit and retain hundreds of thousands more NHS staff and reform the way they work, to give patients better care.
With this government, the NHS is in safe hands.
Rishi Sunak is the Prime Minister of the UK.
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