An NHS consultant has urged colleagues not to strike as he contrasted their high incomes to the poverty and struggles of coal miners.
Dr David Randall said many senior doctors earn so much they could afford to walkout indefinitely and not risk seeing their families go hungry.
He described their calls for a 35 per cent pay rise as ‘eye-watering’ and said it amounts to targeting a ‘bigger slice of the public pie’ as national income has not grown at the same rate.
Speaking at the British Medical Association’s annual conference in Liverpool, the kidney specialist warned such a rise would also widen inequalities with colleagues.
He revealed he earned £230 an hour covering for junior medics during their recent walkout – around the same as a nurse made during their entire 13 hour shift.
Consultants’ walkout will follow five days of picket line carnage by junior doctors, in what will be the longest ever strike in the NHS’s 75-year history. Pictured: Striking NHS junior doctors on the picket line outside Southend University Hospital in Essex
Latest health service figures for 2022 show the average annual basic pay for full-time equivalent consultants now stands at £104,357 (top left graphic). However, the same data shows this extends to £126,125 per year, with their base wages topped up through overtime, medical awards and geographic allowances (bottom right chart)
Dr Randall, who works at The Royal London Hospital and would usually earn a lower hourly rate, said: ‘We should be glad to be in a more fortunate position than the coal miners whose families went hungry as outside income was lost.
‘Many of us have sufficient financial security to strike indefinitely, ironically while taking up extra income from locum shifts and the recovery programme.
‘We can bring the NHS to its knees, but with this power comes enormous responsibility.’
Consultants will walkout in England on July 20 and 21, despite receiving a 4.5 per cent increase last year, taking their average earning to £128,000.
Junior doctors are holding strikes from July 13 to 18, in the longest walkout in the history of the NHS.
Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing has ended its industrial action after too few members backed more strikes in a ballot.
Dr Randall said the BMA should accept a lower pay rise that ‘allows us to look our colleagues in the eye’.
He added: ‘A non-negotiable 35 per cent pay restoration is an eye-watering demand and based on faulty logic that doctors’ incomes should be unaffected by anything that has happened to the nation since 2008.
‘So our target is the biggest slice of the public pie, a large wage increase for high earners will worsen income inequality.’
However, the BMA’s representative body rejected his calls.
Speaking after his address to conference, Dr Randall added: ‘I work in a poor part of the country. My patients are poor. I’m sympathetic to nurses and other healthcare professionals who are also asking for more money.
‘But I think resources are finite, given the overall scope of things. Public debt is high, tax is high. We have to be responsible with the resources we’ve got.
‘I have to look my patients in the eye and explain to them why their appointments have been cancelled because of strike action.
‘If inflation means that everyone is getting poorer, if we accept that economic growth has not kept pace with inflation and we’ve all got poorer, I don’t think that doctors should be the only ones not to feel that pain.’
Addressing colleagues claims that a 35 per cent pay rise is simply restoring their salaries to their 2008 level, he said: ‘This idea of “restoration” is really beguiling because it implies that stuff has been taken away from us and we’re just getting back what is legitimately ours.
‘That idea of restoration is saying that nothing has happened since 2008.
‘I graduated in 2008, so I’ve very much got skin in the game.
‘My pay has deflated all of that period. I’m not talking about something that doesn’t affect me. But every year my pay went up, because of seniority.
More than half a million NHS appointments in England have been cancelled due to health service strikes between December and April, official figures show
‘Personally I don’t feel I’m badly paid. I’m grateful for me salary.
‘I voted against the strike and I won’t strike. That’s my decision.’
The comments come after the Mail revealed consultants will be able to cash in on private work on the days they are striking from the NHS – a practice condemned by MPs and Number 10.
Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, has warned that patients will ‘pay the price’ of the strikes, as waiting lists are at a record 7.4million.
Some consultants covered for less experienced junior colleagues during their strikes but this is not possible the other way around.
Juniors will stage a full walkout, including from A&E and cancer wards, while consultants will provide only ‘Christmas Day cover’, with routine treatments cancelled and care limited to urgent and emergency cases.
Over 650,000 appointments and operations have been cancelled due to NHS strikes since December, including those by doctors, nurses and physiotherapists.
Action later this month is expected to push the number close to 1million.
Dr Philip Banfield, chair of the BMA council, today threatened to continue strikes into next year.
He told the conference: ‘We have become what Governments fear most – an association undaunted by their threats and false narratives, willing to do what it takes for our profession and for our patients,.
‘And we will strike to the next general election – and beyond – if that is what it takes.’
Delegates at the BMA conference demanded that NHS managers who bully or harass staff are banned from senior roles within the service.
They passed a motion which called for ‘the regulation of NHS managers to hold to account those found responsible for bullying and harassment’, saying it ‘adversely affects the delivery of care’ for patients.