• BMA consultant’s committee chair Rob Harwood warns the union’s “measured” approach may no longer be the best way forward
  • Union is considering how best to represent members in light of pay award
  • HSJ understands negotiations for multiyear contract are effectively paused

A senior figure within the British Medical Association has suggested the union will take a tougher stance with the government over planned reforms to consultant contracts.

Consultant’s committee chair Rob Harwood told members the union will review its “measured collegiate approach with this government since results such as this imply that this may no longer be our best way forward”, referring to last month’s pay deal for doctors which gave consultants just a 1.5 per cent increase from 1 October 2018.

Many clinicians pointed out this would actually only equate to a 0.75 per cent pay rise as it would not be backdated to April and covered just six months of the year.

In a message to union members Dr Harwood, a consultant anaesthetist at Norfolk & Norwich University Hospitals Foundation Trust, said he believed the government’s pay deal, which will have to be found from existing NHS budgets, “will only make any eventual ballot on a new consultant contract much less likely to succeed”.

He said the consultant’s committee and the BMA were still in the process of analysing what the pay award “means for ongoing contract negotiations” adding the “year on year reduction in pay cannot continue”.

Relations between the BMA and the government reached a new low in 2016 during the dispute over the junior doctors’ contract which led to the first ever strike by trainee medics in 40 years.

Negotiations between NHS Employers and the BMA over the consultant contract have been repeatedly delayed but talks have previously been described as positive and constructive.

New health and social care secretary Matt Hancock had pledged to be a champion for the NHS workforce in his first speech as secretary of state, just days before the pay rise for medical staff was announced.

The BMA told HSJ that consultants were “rightly extremely angry” and “feel they are not valued by this government”.

“Contract negotiations are ongoing and in light of the recent pay award we are looking at how to best represent our members going forward,” the union said.

The government announced last month that consultants would see a 1.5 per cent pay rise with the value of national and local clinical excellence awards also frozen.

Dr Harwood said the BMA is yet to receive clarity on how trusts can use the CEA funding.

Multiple sources told HSJ the contract negotiations were stalled pending a decision by the union following a consultation with its members. A BMA spokeswoman disputed there was any delay.

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, told HSJ he recognised that decisions taken by the government on the 2018 pay award raised some concerns.

“We remain keen to sit down with the BMA to discuss how we can work together to move negotiations forward on changes to the consultant contract, and provide certainty on future pay awards for individual consultants,” Mr Mortimer said.

The Department of Health and Social Care declined to offer a substantive comment when approached by HSJ