Hospital consultants in England will strike for 2 days in July if they vote to back industrial action over pay, the British Medical Association (BMA) said .
Thursday 20 and Friday 21 July have been earmarked for strike action if the Government "continues to refuse to come forward with a credible pay offer", the Association warned.
The BMA is currently balloting its consultant members in England for industrial action over what it estimates as an average 35% real terms pay cut since 2008-9. The result of the ballot is expected shortly after the vote closes on 27 June.
"Strike action is not inevitable, and it is well within the Government's gift to present us with a reasonable offer that would stop industrial action in its tracks," said Dr Vishal Sharma, chair of the BMA consultants' committee.
In the absence of an acceptable offer and with support for industrial action, the 2 strike days would see consultants providing Christmas Day cover, where they would continue staffing emergency services but not perform routine duties.
The BMA said it was giving advance notice of the dates to give hospital trusts time to make preparations, including rescheduling appointments, prioritising urgent cases, and ensuring patient safety.
Alarm Bells Ringing in Hospital Trusts
NHS Providers said the threat of more strikes would "ring alarm bells" for NHS trust leaders. "The proposed dates next month follow the junior doctors' planned 3-day walkout next week, which means trusts will have little time to recover between the two," commented Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers.
Sir Julian said the ongoing disputes could only be resolved if both the unions and the Government were prepared to negotiate on pay "in good faith". In the meantime, "trust leaders will do everything in their power to mitigate against the impact of these strikes on patients as providing safe, high-quality care remains their top priority", he said.
The BMA described strike action as a "last resort", but that it could see no justification for consultants "being valued a third less than they were 15 years ago". Dr Sharma said: "We know consultants do not take decisions around industrial action lightly, but this isn't just about pay – it's about protecting the future of the NHS. If we sit by and accept further real terms pay cuts, we will continue to lose more of our most senior and experienced clinicians at a time when the NHS and patients need them most."
The Government had 6 weeks to return to the negotiating table with a "fair and reasonable proposal", he added.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "We hugely value the work of NHS consultants, and they received a 4.5% pay uplift last financial year increasing average earnings to around £128,000. They will also benefit from generous changes to pension taxation announced at budget and are eligible to apply for additional financial awards worth up to £40,000 a year as part of the NHS consultant contract.
"We urge the BMA to carefully consider the likely impact of any action on patients."