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Government Offer to NHS Specialist, Associate Specialist and Specialty Doctors

Volume 742: debated on Tuesday 19 December 2023

After seven weeks of constructive negotiations with the British Medical Association specialist, associate specialist and specialty doctors committee, I am pleased to inform the House that on 16 December, I made a formal reform-based offer that the BMA SAS committee has agreed to put to its members for a vote.

No strikes will be called by these doctors while the deal is being put to members.

SAS doctors are a vital part of the NHS. They focus predominantly on providing direct patient care by providing clinical expertise in their specialist area and taking responsibility for a full range of patients within their area of practice, making them essential to our efforts to cut waiting lists and deliver the highest quality service to patients.

In 2021, the Government agreed a multi-year deal with the BMA SAS committee. If accepted, this offer will: address the unintended imbalances in the pay scales for these doctors on the 2021 contract and pre-2021 contracts to ensure consistency and fairness across the workforce; speed up the delivery of some of the key objectives of the 2021 deal, such as the roll-out of the new specialist grade; and encourage more existing doctors to take up the new contracts, which offer modernised terms and conditions.

The offer includes plans to set up a £5 million funding pot to encourage and support NHS employers to create more permanent specialist roles where there is a need. This will fund a significant increase in the number of specialist doctors, improving patient care and access, and will create further opportunities for doctors to progress in their careers.

A joint piece of work will also be undertaken to consider how locally employed doctors—doctors who are employed on local terms and conditions as opposed to national—can be better supported to progress in their careers, including the development of a potential process whereby such doctors operating at specialty level for 24 months could be transferred to a specialty contract.

The Government have made further commitments on career development, including the promotion of job planning for all such doctors; the development of guidance to support the career development of SAS doctors; the development of guidance for employers to encourage, establish and embed specialist roles in their organisation; and a research project to understand why specialist roles are not being created.

Both the Government and the BMA SAS committee engaged constructively and in good faith to identify fixes and reforms that address important concerns for SAS doctors. This offer is independent of the headline pay uplift that SAS doctors have already been awarded in 2023-24 through the Government’s acceptance of the independent pay review body’s recommendations.

The BMA SAS committee will now make arrangements to put this offer to a vote of its members in the coming weeks. I encourage them to accept this offer, and I will update the House in due course.