£134,000-a-year NHS consultants charging hospitals up to £3,000 PER SHIFT for covering striking medics
- NHS bosses fear strike may cancel 100,000 operations and appointments
- Junior doctors have staged joint industrial action with consultants today
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NHS hospitals are paying consultants up to £3,000 for covering a single shift during strike action by medics, a damning investigation revealed today.
University Hospitals Plymouth handed the senior medic the sum for working a 12-and-a-half-hour night shift, which was supposed to be performed by a junior doctor.
The rate is almost one-and-a-half times what a typical hospital consultant would earn in a week, and up to four times the weekly salary of a junior doctor.
The British Medical Association (BMA), the union behind junior doctor and consultant walkouts, tells medics to call for the sky-high rates of up to £269 per hour for working a shift that was supposed to be covered by a striking medic.
Both groups were today accused of ‘going against the ethics of medicine’ after taking to the picket lines together in the first of a series of co-ordinated walkouts designed to ‘maximise disruption’.
The figures, uncovered by Freedom of Information requests from the BBC , also found that paying for cover is costing hospitals up to three times more than they save in the wages deducted from striking junior doctors. Pictured, NHS consultants and junior doctors outside St.Thomas’ hospital in London today
Consultants in England have taken to the picket lines on four separate days so far this summer, while junior doctors have staged 19 days of strike action this year. Both will return to the picket lines together on October, 2, 3 and 4. Radiographers are also set to join medics by walking out for 24 hours from 8am on October 3. The strike days also coincide with Rishi Sunak’s first Tory party conference as leader and prime minister
The £3,000 figure was uncovered by a Freedom of Information request from the BBC.
The broadcaster also found that University Hospitals Plymouth paid nearly £1.8m for cover — £1.59m to consultants — during the first three rounds of junior doctor industrial action alone.
It also uncovered that paying for cover is costing hospitals up to three times more than they save in the wages deducted from striking junior doctors.
The BMA recommends the fees that NHS staff should charge when covering striking medics’ shifts.
It advises consultants charge an hourly rate of £161 on weekdays, £215 at a weekend and in excess of £260 overnight.
But it is up to trusts to decide whether to pay these rates — and data provided by the NHS shows not all are.
The BBC Freedom of Information request found a consultant at University Hospitals Plymouth was paid more than £3,000 to cover a 12-and-a-half-hour night shift, supposed to be covered by a junior doctor. The same hospital paid nearly £1.8m for cover — £1.59m to consultants — during the first three rounds of junior doctor industrial action alone. Pictured, NHS consultants and junior doctors outside University College hospital in London today
England’s backlog, for procedures like hip and knee replacements, now stands at 7.6million, official figures revealed last week. It means roughly one in seven people across the country are currently stuck in the system awaiting care. More than 380,000 patients have gone a year without being treated, often in agony
Other Freedom of Information responses collected by the BBC show during the first four walkouts, Hull University Hospitals NHS Trust paid nearly £1.7m to consultants and other senior doctors providing cover — three times the amount saved.
Matthew Taylor, head of the NHS Confederation, which represents hospitals, said: ‘For a long time, many trusts have been reluctant or refused to pay this much higher rate.
‘But as the strikes have rumbled on, we’re hearing of more instances where trusts have had to in order to maintain safe cover.’
He added: ‘We believe that trusts will be left with little option but to pay over the odds to keep patients safe.’
Consultants are taking strike action until 7am on Thursday, while junior doctors are staging their own action from today, which will wrap up at 7am on Saturday.
Further joint strikes by the medics are planned for October 2, 3 and 4.
Other Freedom of Information responses collected by the news organisation show during the first four walkouts, Hull University Hospitals NHS Trust paid nearly £1.7m to consultants and other senior doctors providing cover — three times the amount saved. Pictured, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn meets striking consultants and junior doctors today outside Whittington Hospital in London
Prior to this week’s walkouts, junior doctors had already staged 19 days of strike action this year, with consultants taking to the picket lines on four separate days.
NHS Providers, which represents health managers, says the likely total cost of the junior doctors’ walkouts will exceed £1bn.
Deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery said: ‘Trusts really are bearing the financial brunt of month after month of industrial action.’
She added: ‘We need government and unions to sit down and talk to stop strikes becoming business as usual.’
Consultants’ basic pay now sits between £93,666 and £126,281 a year depending on experience, following a recent six per cent pay increase.
Read more: Price of worst strike in NHS history laid bare: ‘Devastated’ patients left in tears as they face weeks of suffering while waiting for new appointments and warn lives are at risk due to mass medic walkouts
However, they can boost this sum by taking on extra shifts on top of long hours, private work and being granted awards.
For example, the average annual basic pay per full-time consultant in the year to March 2023 was £105,484.
However, their average earnings was actually £127,000 due to topping the figure up through extra work.
Health chiefs say the average consultant will now take home £134,000 a year following their 6 per cent pay uplift.
Many routine hospital appointments and treatments, including cancer care, have been postponed as a result of industrial action.
Some hospitals have had to halve their normal levels of activity on strike days.
But patients have been urged to still attend their appointment if they have not been told it is cancelled — as some doctors are still working.
‘Christmas Day’ cover is in place throughout hospitals on Wednesday, with emergency units staffed and a basic level of cover on wards.
Sir Stephen Powis, NHS England’s national medical director, confirmed today that nearly 900,000 procedures have been disrupted due to industrial action and the figure ‘will certainly rise today and over the next few days’.
NHS bosses also said the ‘awful scenario’ will put patients at ‘the highest level of risk in living memory’, and affect ‘many more groups of patients who haven’t been disrupted by previous strikes’.
But Dr Vishal Sharma, chairman of the BMA’s consultants’ committee, said staff felt forced into taking strike action, adding that while pay had been eroded, workloads had dramatically increased.
In a letter sent to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Steve Barclay on Sunday, he wrote: ‘It is essential that we can reach an agreement, not only to bring an end to the current dispute and prevent further strike action as we head into winter, but to ensure that the NHS can recruit and retain the highly experienced staff that it needs.’
However, the health Secretary and the BMA have not met in more than three months.
But the BMA, which is coordinating the walkouts, argues that medics have seen their pay be eroded by 35 per cent over the last 15 years.
As a result, junior doctors have called for a full 35 per cent pay uplift, while consultants set their pay demand 11 per cent.
For comparison, the Government has offered junior doctors a pay rise between 8.1 and 10.3 per cent, while consultants have been offered six per cent.
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