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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 June, 2003, 12:15 GMT 13:15 UK
'We are desperately unhappy'
Consultants want fresh talks with ministers
Consultants have backed calls for a ballot on industrial action over the government's refusal to re-open talks on a new NHS contract.

One consultant tells BBC News Online's Ray Dunne why she is considering voting yes if the ballot goes ahead.

Dr Kate Ward is a consultant paediatrician at Airedale Hospital in Yorkshire. She has been a consultant for 18 years.

The British Medical Association last took industrial action in 1975 when junior doctors were in dispute over their pay and conditions.

I am disappointed and angry with the government's refusal to sit down and talk to us

Dr Ward was one of those who took industrial action. She is now seriously considering doing so again.

Dr Ward voted in favour of the new consultant contract last year.

"I voted for the contract because it offered to define my working hours. Paediatricians as a group voted in favour of the contract.

"Under the deal we would have been paid for work we already do."

Contract rejected

Dr Ward acknowledges that paediatricians are somewhat unique. Consultants as a whole voted against the deal for a number of reasons, not least because of fears they could be forced to work evenings and weekends.

"I was not surprised it was rejected," says Dr Ward.

In line with government instructions, her trust has attempted to introduce the new contract locally.

We do not undertake industrial action lightly

However, consultants at Airedale Hospital have overwhelmingly rejected such a move in a ballot.

"I voted against local implementation," says Dr Ward.

"I believe in solidarity," she explains.

Consultants have now backed a call to ballot doctors on taking industrial action.

Many are incensed at the government's continued refusal to re-open negotiations on new pay and working conditions.

"It is an intolerable situation," says Dr Ward. "I am disappointed and angry with the government's refusal to sit down and talk to us."

Industrial action

She will seriously consider voting in favour of industrial action if the ballot goes ahead.

But she says: "I will have a serious dilemma. I am a consultant paediatrician. We have to provide a service."

She suggests that she could support a limited form of industrial action, such as refusing to do overtime, attend managerial meetings or complete paperwork.

"We could stick to our job plan," she says.

"If all consultants were to work strictly to their job plans, it could have serious implications for the NHS."

She insists that consultants are serious about taking industrial action.

"There is a lot of disquiet and unhappiness among the consultant body," she says.

"Those of us who were involved in the last industrial dispute in 1975 know that it poses a great deal of stress for doctors.

"We do not undertake industrial action lightly. The fact that we are considering it shows how very unhappy we are."

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