The Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association has been given national bargaining rights for all grades of doctor in England by NHS Employers.
Recognition in December follows years of talks and the HCSA will now play a full role in talks on pay and T&Cs.
It means that for the first time since the NHS was established in 1948 there are now two nationally recognised professional associations and unions negotiating directly with employers on behalf of NHS hospital doctors.
The HCSA, which has more than 3,500 members, has written to all hospital trust chief executives seeking local recognition and representation.
Formal recognition of the HCSA follows the dispute between the government and the BMA last year, which led to the first full strikes by junior doctors in more than 40 years.
The BMA suffered a torrid year in 2016 with the government imposing a new contract on trainee doctors from October.
HCSA chief executive Eddie Saville said: “Our new recognition status means that for the first time in decades there is now an alternative independent, TUC affiliated trade union solely representing hospital doctors at the national negotiating table…
“We are an experienced trade union, many of our members already sit on and chair local negotiating committees in trusts up and down the country, and I know many others are keen to participate.”
The HCSA is run and led by its members but also has professional trade union officers to represent and negotiate on behalf of members.
HCSA president Professor Ross Welch said: “This might seem a small functional change but it is the first time since the NHS was created that a union has been granted full negotiating recognition for medical contracts other than the BMA.
“This is a game changing moment – an alternative professional trade union at the national negotiating table able to give a voice to the thousands of hospital doctors who for whatever reason feel disenfranchised.”
The HCSA is TUC affiliated.