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Collective action strengthens consultant pay negotiations

The discussion around fair compensation for consultants is not just a matter of numbers. It reflects the value placed on the expertise, dedication, and contributions of experienced medical professionals.

Nicky Stanford
Nicky Stanford Consultant Orthodontist

Over the last 15 to 20 years, consultants have faced real terms pay erosion as a result of sub-inflationary pay uplifts. Over time, dissatisfaction deepened with pay, pensions, and the decisions made by the Doctors’ and Dentists' Review Body (DDRB) regarding consultant pay. Following initial changes to pensions last year, which went some way to remedying the issues, industrial action was the only remaining answer to address concerns that remained unresolved.

The impact of strike action

Entering industrial action is a difficult decision. It had been 50 years since consultants last went on strike, however we have all seen colleagues increasingly leaving roles, working abroad, and not taking up training posts. The Government put multiple offers out with changes to contracts, which were felt to be unacceptable, leading to ballots for strike action. The ballots were supported by BDA and BMA members in the areas where they secured a mandate to take industrial action, and multiple rounds of strike action subsequently took place throughout 2023.

Entering industrial action is a difficult decision.

Negotiating a pay offer

Although we were not directly in the room during negotiations with government, the strength of our relationship with the BMA team, who liaise with us on a regular basis, meant that we could ensure core messages between BDA and BMA were aligned throughout the process. As a result, a new pay offer was accepted by BMA and BDA members earlier this year. The offer includes a 4.95% uplift, which is being utilised to reform the current consultant pay scale.

Part of this uplift will be funded by the redeployment of the Local Clinical Excellence Awards (CEA). This has proven somewhat divisive as more experienced consultants benefit from these, but the pay offer gives more benefits to less experienced consultants.

A new pay offer was accepted by BMA and BDA members earlier this year.

The future of pay assessments

I believe that the final offer from the Government is a more equitable spread of increased pay across the scale. Following this, there will be another subsequent increase for 2024/25, implemented through the DDRB process, which should make further steps to cover the reduction we have seen in recent years.

The pay offer also came with reforms to the DDRB itself. The Government have made a concession to give trade unions a more direct say in the job specifications used for assessments. It has also been made clear that the DDRB must consider pay over a period, taking the full picture into account. These changes will create a more holistic view of how pay awards impact everyone, not just the Government, but also the lives of staff.

Consultants across the BDA and BMA have a shared cause.

The power of collective action

Consultants across the BDA and BMA have a shared cause, facing the same issues daily, and our decision to take joint strike action is evidence of this. This created a united front and no doubt that we are all stronger together. CCHDS is here to ensure that your voice is heard and support you with the issues you are facing at work.

I encourage everyone to engage with us and share your views. Our goal is to keep up the momentum and keep salaries going up, not down. Whilst it is through the strength of collective action that we have taken a step in the right direction, we will continue to monitor any award from the DDRB this year. With these changes, I hope our younger colleagues, who are choosing what to train in, see this as a valuable career path. Working as a consultant is an incredibly worthwhile role, and we will continue to ensure that our expertise is recognised.

Fair pay and contracts

Industrial action

We campaign for fair pay for all dentists, from negotiating with UK Governments to organising strike action when other routes have been exhausted. Find out about upcoming industrial action and how you can participate.