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SAS doctors vote yes to new pay deal

Specialist, associate specialist, and specialty doctors in England have voted in favour of a new pay deal (Peter Byrne/PA)
Specialist, associate specialist, and specialty doctors in England have voted in favour of a new pay deal (Peter Byrne/PA)

Specialist, associate specialist, and specialty (SAS) doctors in England have voted in favour of a new pay deal from the Government, the British Medical Association (BMA) has said.

It follows months of negotiations and the rejection of a previous offer.

SAS doctors are experienced medics with at least four years of postgraduate training, two of which are in a relevant specialty.

The new pay deal is worth between 9.5% and 19.4% for SAS doctors in England on 2021 contracts.

Medics on 2008 contracts will get an uplift of £1,400 on top of the 6% increase awarded by the Doctors’ and Dentists’ Review Body (DDRB) in 2023/24.

The offer also includes proposals to improve career progression.

Some 79.3% of SAS members of the BMA who took part in the ballot voted in favour of the new deal. The turnout was 61.1%.

While the dispute is now formally over, the BMA vowed to continue to push for further improvements to SAS doctors’ pay and career development.

Dr Ujjwala Mohite, chairwoman of the BMA’s SAS UK Committee, said: “We entered this dispute with the Government almost a year ago, and today’s result is a step in the right direction in restoring SAS doctors’ value in the NHS.

“Not many people have heard of SAS doctors or know what they do, but they are absolutely crucial to the running of the health service.

“They are experienced, senior doctors who for a variety of reasons, didn’t go down the traditional GP or consultant training pathway. They usually work in hospitals, delivering expert care alongside junior doctors and consultants.

“However, a combination of burnout, eroded pay, stunted career progression, and being taken for granted by the Government has seen many forced to leave the NHS altogether.

“Many SAS doctors also suffer from grade-ism – the idea that, because they don’t fit into the traditional pathways, they are somehow not as important.

“That’s why, even though today marks significant progress in helping to keep more SAS doctors in the health service, the fight for pay restoration and improving the working lives of SAS doctors is far from over.

“The next step is seeing what the next DDRB pay round brings, and whether it brings us any closer to giving all SAS doctors, on all contracts, what they deserve.”

It is understood the BMA represents more than 6,000 SAS doctors in England.

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said trust leaders will be “breathing a sigh of relief” at the news.

“SAS doctors play a vital role in providing safe, high-quality care for patients. They are senior clinicians,” she said.

“Trust leaders will be breathing a sigh of relief at this agreement, but we’re not out of the woods yet as junior doctors are set to strike again next week.

“Trusts will do everything they can to minimise the impact of strikes on patients but more disruption is inevitable.

“The next government and unions must make ending disruptive disputes in the NHS a priority.”

Industrial strike
Junior doctors in England are set to go on strike later this month (Aaron Chown/PA)

BMA Council chairman Professor Phil Banfield said: “Although this marks significant progress helping to retain more SAS doctors in the health service, the fight for pay restoration and improving the working lives of SAS doctors is far from over.

“This deal shows that it is possible to negotiate a successful end to the doctors’ disputes with the right investment, right offer and improvements to working conditions.

“The Prime Minister should now do the same for junior doctors. It’s not too late for Rishi Sunak to take this opportunity to be known as the PM that successfully settled all the hospital doctors’ disputes in England.”

Junior doctors are set to go on strike from 7am on June 27 until 7am on July 2, just days before the General Election.

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said: “I am delighted that associate specialist, specialist and specialty doctors in England have voted in favour of this deal by such an overwhelming margin.

“It’s a fair deal for the taxpayer, which will also improve career progression and pay structures for this important group of NHS staff. The Government will now move forward with implementation.

“Much like the deal with consultants that preceded it, this agreement with SAS doctors shows what you can achieve when two sides want to find common ground.

“The junior doctors committee should look at this deal closely. I have already committed that, if they cancel their strikes at the end of June, I will return to discussions with them immediately after the election to bring this dispute to a close. There is a deal to be done. The time has come to end these strikes and focus on patients.”