Consultants’ strikes “unchartered territory” for a post-pandemic NHS

Matthew Taylor responds to the BMA consultants' ballot outcome.

27 June 2023

Responding to the British Medical Association ( BMA) consultant ballot outcome, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:

“The result of the BMA ballot showing that consultants have voted in favour for strike action will be deeply concerning to leaders, who will be feeling anxious about what this means for their services, staff and patients.

“This will be huge blow to the service especially for a workforce that has helped prop up the NHS during the disruptive junior doctors’ strikes. Now they will be staging industrial action of their own, following the five-day junior doctor strikes expected in July. Leaders will be putting plans in place to make sure life-saving critical care continues but as the consultants have not staged a walkout in over ten years this will be unchartered territory for a post-pandemic NHS.

“NHS leaders in systems and Trusts have agreed to ambitious performance and financial targets. These targets – including the Prime Ministers witing list pledge - were already very stretching but further industrial action by junior doctors and now consultants will make them even harder to achieve.

“While it is positive that other trade unions have managed to reach agreement with the government, it is important for everyone in the NHS workforce to have the same opportunity to have their concerns around working conditions listened to and understood. Industrial action in general has been going on for far too long so staff are exhausted - all sides will want a speedy resolution given the backlogs the service is battling with.

“We hope that the workforce plan will address all these issues around vacancies, recruitment and retention, which will help with the pressures of combatting the backlog, however pay is out of scope within the plan so this will need the government’s special attention.

“With patient care on the line, no one wants to see a war of attrition between consultants and the government, like we have seen previously with other trade unions; both sides must do what they can to avert this walkout."