Senior hospital doctors in England have accepted a pay offer, their union and the government said Friday, bringing an end to a damaging dispute as increasing numbers quit for better paid work overseas.

The deal will see some consultants -- experienced specialist doctors -- receive a pay increase of nearly 20 percent for 2023-24.

Doctors' leaders say medics at all levels have been leaving the state-run National Health Service (NHS) in droves, driven by a stressful work environment and dwindling pay packets.

The consultants have walked out repeatedly since July 2023, when they took action for the first time in more than a decade.

Last September consultants also walked out at the same time as other hospital doctors below consultant level, known as junior doctors.

It was the first time the two groups had gone on strike simultaneously.

The strikes have compounded Covid backlogs and years of underfunding that have seen long waiting times build up for treatment, which critics say have put lives at risk.

The British Medical Association (BMA) union, which represents doctors in the UK, said 83 percent of its members in England had voted in favour of the improved offer.

It said changes to a pay review body as part of the deal would mean it could "no longer ignore the historical losses that doctors have suffered or the fact that countries abroad are competing for UK doctors with the offer of significantly higher salaries".

Vishal Sharma, chair of the BMA's consultants committee, added that it was "imperative" the deal lead to the long-term restoration of pay levels in the profession.

"After years of repeated real-terms pay cuts, caused by government interference and a failure of the pay review process, consultants have spoken and now clearly feel that this offer is enough of a first step to address our concerns to end the current dispute," he said.

Junior doctors, who are also leaving the profession, remain in dispute with the government.

According to the OECD, the number of UK-trained doctors in Australia rose from just over 3,900 in 2013 to around 6,600 in 2021.

A BMA poll published in 2022 found that around 40 percent of UK junior doctors planned to leave the NHS as soon as they could find another job, with around a third of those planning to move abroad in the next 12 months.

Around 42 percent of them said Australia was their preferred destination.