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NHS consultants in England accept pay offer to end year-long dispute and strike action | UK News

Senior doctors in England have voted to accept an improved government pay deal, bringing to an end the year-long dispute which had led to strike action.

The British Medical Association (BMA), a trade union which has been representing the consultants, put the offer on pay and conditions to its members, with 83% voting in favour.

The pay deal includes changes to a doctors’ pay review body and a 2.85% (£3,000) uplift for those who have been senior doctors for four to seven years, who under the original offer received no additional uplift, said the BMA.

The offer is in addition to the 6% awarded during the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration (DDRB) process last summer.

Strike action over the last two years has heaped more pressure on the NHS, where more than seven million patients remain on waiting lists for hospital treatment, leading to thousands of cancelled appointments and procedures.

It has also piled pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ahead of an expected election later this year, as polls suggest the Tory party is trailing heavily behind Labour.

He hailed the deal as “excellent news” for patients after admitting in February that he had failed to cut NHS waiting lists, a key government pledge.

“The end of consultant strike action in the NHS is excellent news for patients. It will mean we can continue making progress towards our goal of cutting the waiting lists, which have now fallen for the fourth month in a row,” he said.

“Consultants perform a vital role at the heart of the NHS – I’m pleased they’ve accepted this deal, which is fair for them and fair for the taxpayer.”

While NHS nurses ended strike action last year following a pay deal, a long-running pay dispute with junior doctors, who staged a five-day strike in February, remains ongoing.

‘Without valuing doctors, we lose them’

Dr Vishal Sharma, who chairs the BMA consultants committee, said “at the heart of this dispute was our concern for patients and the future sustainability of the NHS”.

He described the consultants’ strike action as “unprecedented” following “years of repeated real-term pay cuts”.

Dr Sharma went on to say “it’s now imperative that the DDRB utilises its independence to restore doctors’ pay and prevent any further disputes from arising.

“We’ve reached this point not just through our tough negotiations with the Government, but thanks to the resolve of consultants, who took the difficult decision to strike, and did so safely and effectively, on multiple occasions, sending a clear message that they would not back down.

“At the heart of this dispute was our concern for patients and the future sustainability of the NHS. Without valuing doctors, we lose them. Without doctors, we have no NHS and patients suffer.”

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Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins said the government’s offer was “fair and reasonable” and the deal eliminated the threat of further strikes.

She added: “Consultants will now be able to focus on providing the highest quality care for patients and we can consolidate our progress on waiting lists – which have fallen for the past four months.

“This deal directly addresses gender pay issues in the NHS and enhances consultants’ parental leave options – representing a fair deal for consultants, patients, and taxpayers.”

Valdo Calocane: Prosecutors correct to accept Nottingham killer’s manslaughter pleas, report finds | UK News

Prosecutors were correct to accept Nottingham killer Valdo Calocane’s manslaughter by diminished responsibility pleas rather than pursue a murder case, the CPS inspectorate has found.

Calocane, 32, stabbed to death students Barnaby Webber and Grace O’Malley-Kumar, both 19, and 65-year-old school caretaker Ian Coates in June last year.

The attorney general ordered an urgent review into the CPS’s handling of the case after families of the three victims said they were bitterly disappointed that a murder case was not pursued by prosecutors.

They also felt they had not been properly informed about the decision before it was made.

(L-R)  Ian Coates, Barnaby Webber, Grace O'Malley-Kumar
(L-R) Ian Coates, Barnaby Webber, Grace O’Malley-Kumar

His Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) said in their report published on Monday that the CPS were correct to accept Calocane’s manslaughter by diminished responsibility pleas and a good service was provided to families.

However, the report said there was room for improvement, recommending that the CPS in future provide written guidance to help police family liaison officers explain legal concepts to bereaved families.

They also suggested that the use of the word “consult” when referring to engagement with the families around the legal decision-making in this case may have contributed to a general misunderstanding of the CPS’s obligations to bereaved families.

This is because there is no obligation for the CPS to “consult” victims when deciding on the evidential test of the Code for Crown Prosecutors, but rather to “inform” and “explain” their decision.

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‘Murderers can get away with murder’

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The report said: “It is understandable why the bereaved families find the decision by the CPS to accept the pleas of not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter difficult to accept.

“Their loved ones were violently killed by an offender who knew what he was doing was wrong and who intended to kill them.

“The term manslaughter has the perception to underplay the gravity of what has taken place.”

The report made two recommendations – the first that, by October 2024, the CPS must undertake a review of guidance relating to victims’ engagement to ensure all staff are aware when the use of the terms “consult” or “consultation” is appropriate.

It also recommended that the government consider whether homicide should be categorised into three tiers – first degree murder, second degree murder in cases of diminished responsibility, and manslaughter.

Pic: Nottinghamshire Police/PA
Screen grab taken from CCTV dated 13/06/23 and time stamped at 04.13am issued by Nottinghamshire Police of Valdo Calocane walking along Radford Boulevard, Nottingham. Valdo Calocane, who stabbed three people to death in Nottingham city centre and attacked three others, has been sentenced at Nottingham Crown Court to a hospital order after admitting manslaughter by diminished responsibility and attempted murder. Issue date: Thursday January 25, 2024.
Valdo Calocane walking along Radford Boulevard, Nottingham, prior to the attack. Pic: Nottinghamshire Police/PA

Under such a system – recommended by the Law Commission in 2006 – the unlawful killings in this case would have been categorised as murder, albeit second degree murder, according to the report.

‘Murderers can get away with murder’

Barnaby Webber’s mother, Emma Webber, said she was “disappointed but not entirely surprised” by the outcome.

“Until the law changes in this country, the diminished responsibility charge and plea means that murderers can get away with murder,” she said.

“We’ve never disputed Calocane’s mental health problem, but what I would say is that, at the moment, in this country, and you have mental health problems, it is very unlikely then you are actually going to be tried for murder.

“And it is abhorrent that it can be downgraded to diminished responsibility, just because it is how the law is stated.”

Emma Webber, mother of Barnaby Webber, outside Nottingham Crown Court 
Pic: PA
Emma Webber said she was “disappointed but not entirely surprised” by the outcome of the report. Pic: PA

In response, Stephen Parkinson, director of Public Prosecutions, said: “In tragic and complex circumstances such as these, the CPS has difficult decisions to make, but must always act with independence and professionalism.

“I believe that our team did so in this case, and with considerable dedication and commitment.

“I am grateful to the Inspectorate for the care and thoroughness with which they have reviewed our actions. We will carefully consider the report’s findings.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak previously promised the victims’ families that “we will get the answers” but their calls for a public inquiry have so far gone unanswered.

Other investigations into the actions of police and mental health staff continue.