Young doctors are being offered an extra ?1,000 on top of a 6 per cent pay rise in a bid to avoid further devastating strikes.
Ministers are said to be ready to adopt the independent wage review body’s advice for the 2023/24 financial year.
It comes as the government tries to bring inflation down and medics are still rowing over a bid for 2022/23.
The British Medical Association is demanding a 35 per cent pay rise for junior doctors this year and 49 per cent if agreed as part of a two-year settlement.
But Health Secretary Steve Barclay says this is unrealistic and prohibitively expensive and has offered them just 5 percent for the current year.
Health bosses were forced to cancel 108,602 appointments and surgeries when junior doctors withdrew care for three days last week, including from cancer wards and ER. It brought the total number of postponements due to strike action by doctors in training, nurses and physiotherapists since December to 651,232
The union has announced that up to 47,600 medics below the rank of consultant will strike for five consecutive days from July 13 if the government does not give in to their demands.
It would be the longest strike in NHS history and is likely to result in the cancellation of nearly 200,000 appointments and operations.
It will also leave just one day before a proposed two-day strike by consultants, which is expected to make the impact even more disruptive.
Health chiefs admitted the announcement of five days of strikes gave them a “sinking feeling” and warned it could leave patients with more serious health complications.
NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard said a three-day strike by juniors earlier this month posed a ‘serious risk to patient safety’.
Salaries for public sector employees are set by government ministers, who consider formal recommendations from pay review bodies.
A pay deal for 1 million NHS staff, including nurses, pandemic and physiotherapists, has already been announced for this year, but pay for doctors remains undecided.
The Department of Health and Social Care confirmed it has now received a recommendation from the Doctors and Dentists Pay Review Body (DDRB) for 2023/24, which it is “carefully considering” and will soon publish along with its response.
On a visit to Nottinghamshire, Rishi Sunak warned that people “might not like” the decisions he has to make to curb rampant inflation.
The recommendation proposes that the health workers covered by it receive a 6 percent wage increase for the year 2023/24, which runs from April 2023 to March 2024.
Any salary increases will be implemented retroactively to April.
However, an additional consolidated payment of around ?1,000 has been proposed specifically for junior doctors.
Rishi Sunak warned that he will not shy away from making decisions “that people may not like” to control inflation as he refused to commit to accepting recommendations for public sector wage increases.
Ministers have suggested they could choose to ignore the advice of the independent rating bodies as part of the UK government’s efforts to calm the pace of rising prices – an option the prime minister has refused to take off the table.
He has set halving inflation by the end of the year as his top priority ahead of the likely general election in 2024.
But inflation has remained stubbornly high, with consumer price index (CPI) inflation remaining at 8.7 percent in May despite expert forecasts that it would fall.
Speaking to broadcasters on a trip to Nottinghamshire, Mr Sunak argued that with inflation ‘higher than we would like’ it was important to ‘make the right and responsible decisions on things like public sector pay’.
He said further strikes being planned by junior doctors were “deeply disappointing” and claimed it would “make it more difficult” to reduce NHS waiting lists – another of his top five pledges to voters.
?It will only make it more difficult to bring waiting lists down and I think people need to recognize the economic context we are in.
“I’m going to make the decisions that are right for the country.
‘That’s not always easy, people may not like that, but those are the right things for everyone to get a grip on inflation.’
Recommendations made by wage review bodies are not legally binding on the government and although they are generally accepted, ministers can generally choose to reject or partially ignore the advice.
But this would be a controversial move after the government last year defended below-inflation wage increases by saying it had followed the advice of the agencies.
It could further fuel ongoing disputes with unions and lead to more industrial action.
Kate Bell, deputy general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), said any decision to override the wage review body’s advice is “driven by politics, not economics.”
She said public sector wages had fallen “well behind inflation” and that there was a “15-year wage squeeze where wages failed to keep up with inflation.”
“We had the government, in the winter when they refused to negotiate with NHS workers – eventually they did come to the table, of course – leaning very heavily on the pay review bodies and saying we had to take into account this independent process,” she told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“It’s kind of rich to hear them now say, ‘Well, we’re going to roll back those independent recommendations’ when we haven’t even seen them come out yet.”
A long-term NHS staffing plan is being published this week, announcing more apprenticeships in healthcare and a doubling of places in medical schools from 7,500 to 15,000.
The BMA declined to comment on the “speculative” salary reports, saying it would wait for more clarity before deciding on next steps.