Senior doctors in England may refuse to do overtime if the government does not improve a 1% pay offer.
The threat of industrial action comes after the Royal College of Nursing already said it would consider balloting for industrial action over a pay offer that NHS staff have described as a “slap in the face”.
The British Medical Association (BMA) is to ask members about halting paid and unpaid overtime if the pay offer is not closer to 5%.
Dr Vishal Sharma, the deputy chair of the BMA consultants committee, said “Consultants are absolutely burned out and experiencing high levels of fatigue and stress at the moment – and this is on the back of consultants having the worst pay erosion of any group.
“We absolutely understand how difficult this is. To be clear, consultants would not down tools. They would not leave patients unsupported and not looked after, but what we are talking about is really that kind of extra work that people are struggling to do and they are feeling underappreciated.”
Sharma told BBC’s Today programme that consultants recognised the stress on patients at the moment but there came a point when it was necessary to “take control”.
“Otherwise, when is this going to end? Goodwill is the glue that holds the NHS together and the government risks losing it. If it goes, services may collapse in the future.”
The then health secretary, Matt Hancock, said in March that a decision to recommend the 1% increase was prompted by an assessment of “what’s affordable as a nation” after the economic toll taken by the coronavirus crisis.
The Department of Health has said it is committed to a pay rise for NHS staff at a time when increases for other workers in the public sector were paused.
Review bodies overseeing pay for most NHS workers have produced recommendations that have not yet been published. Government ministers in England will decide, on the back of those recommendations, if they will increase the proposed 1% offer, which has been cited by some healthcare workers as a factor in why they are thinking about leaving the profession.
A nurse who cared for Boris Johnson when he was gravely ill with Covid-19 revealed in May that she had handed in her resignation, such was her disillusionment with the “lack of respect” shown by the government for the NHS and healthcare workers. Jenny McGee, who kept vigil by the prime minister’s bedside for two days when he was in intensive care, said: “We are not getting the respect, and now pay, that we deserve.”
In May, the Scottish government confirmed a pay deal that would give most NHS workers a 4% rise. The Welsh government is yet to make a formal public announcement on NHS pay increases.
• This article was amended on 7 July 2021. The BMA is seeking a pay rise of at least 5% for its members, not 4% as stated in an earlier version.