The labour movement received a boost today as a doctors’ union won a seat at the negotiating table alongside NHS bosses.
The group of medics – the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) – has been awarded representation in negotiations over pay and conditions with NHS England. It described the move as a “game changer”.
The HCSA, which has 3,500 members and is affiliated to the TUC, is seeking similar national recognition for hospital doctors in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
It follows a year of industrial unrest in the NHS including waves of strikes by junior doctors who were in dispute with the government over a new contract and patient safety.
In the aftermath of the row with junior doctors, many consultants are increasingly fearful that their contracts could be renegotiated next. The HCSA previously had only consultants and specialists as members but has recently opened up membership to include junior medics.
Today marks the first time since the NHS was established in 1948 that two trade unions have been officially recognised. HCSA will join the British Medical Association in negotiations.
The HCSA ruled out affiliating to the Labour party saying that they are not a politically aligned group.
Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said: “We welcome the decision by NHS England to recognise HCSA, which is excellent news for the doctors they represent and whose pay and conditions they can now negotiate. And it’s good news for NHS patients, whose interests will be well served by the campaigning work of HCSA for a properly resourced NHS in which staff are able to provide the best possible standards of clinical care.”