• Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association calls for BMA to seek common ground
  • But delays to new contract “stem from the employer side and particular the Treasury”
  • HCSA criticises employers for focusing on clinical excellence awards

The British Medical Association’s refusal to negotiate alongside another doctors’ union has complicated negotiations on the consultant contract, HSJ has been told.

The chair of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association said the “inability to negotiate jointly with the BMA [is] clearly frustrating”.

The BMA’s refusal to negotiate in the same room as the HCSA has been confirmed by several sources, who told HSJ it was an unusual situation in healthcare.

The HCSA was formally granted national collective bargaining rights with the NHS in December 2016, bringing a second medical union into negotiations for the first time.

HCSA chair Claudia Paoloni said: “Joint negotiations are in the best interest of all hospital doctors and we therefore hope the BMA will review and reverse their current reluctance to seek common ground with the HCSA.”

Dr Paoloni said the HCSA’s door “remains open” and it hopes it will be able to work with the BMA for its members in future.

However, she stressed that the BMA’s refusal to negotiate jointly “is not to blame” for delays to the new contract, which instead “stem from the employer side and particular the Treasury”.

“If anything, employers are capitalising on the current situation by driving through their priorities to the detriment of HCSA and BMA members,” Dr Paoloni said.

She said this was evident in employers’ determination to go ahead with changes to the clinical excellence awards, while other negotiations are “placed on a back burner”.

“The HCSA opposes this piecemeal approach to hospital doctors’ pay structures and we fear that it will only end up compounding the current national workforce crisis,” she added.

An NHS Employers spokesman said: “The priorities for the negotiation reflect the views of all parties, which includes the BMA, the HCSA, employers and the Department of Health and Social Care.”

The BMA declined to comment when approached by HSJ.

Negotiations between the doctors’ unions, NHS Employers and the DHSC started in 2013 but stalled in 2015 when the BMA walked out of talks. They have since progressed and been described as “positive and constructive” in the government’s submission to the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration.