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GP recruitment concern is ‘no compelling reason’ for pay increase, say NHS managers

NHS England has rebutted calls for GPs to be given a pay rise above 1%, stating that there are ‘no compelling issues’ with recruiting salaried GPs in its supplementary evidence to the pay review body.

The Doctors and Dentists Review Body (DDRB) had noted that ‘salaried GP recruitment and retention is a problem for some areas of England’ in its original response to NHS England’s calls for a pay increase of no more than 1%. However, NHS England responded that while it was aware of the problem in some areas of England, it should not be remedied with a further pay increase.

GP leaders said that NHS England did not understand the situation faced by GP practices, and a failure to increase GPs’ remuneration would lead to a ‘collapse’ of general practice.

The DDRB will make recommendations to NHS England on how much GPs’ pay should be uplifted in the new year. However, NHS England is under no obligation to take on board the review body’s recommendations, as was the case last year, when health secretary Jeremy Hunt ignored its recommended 2.29% increase, and awarded a 1.32% uplift instead.

NHS England’s supplementary evidence follows its original evidence submitted at the end of September, The BMA had asked for at least an inflationary uplift to funding.

However, the DDRB asked NHS England to clarify its position, pointing out there were recruitment problems in England.

The supplementary evidence submitted by NHS England read: ‘Whilst there might be some areas where recruitment is more challenging than others, there do not appear to be any compelling labour market issues for doctors that could be addressed by increasing pay in 2014/15.’

Reacting to NHS England’s position on recruitment, GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘If NHS England are saying that there are no recruitment or retention issues then they need to get out more. Increasingly practices are telling us that they cannot recruit GPs and ever-increasing numbers of GPs are looking to retire as soon as possible.

‘Addressing that will take time and is complex, but fair remuneration plays an important part. Cutting GPs’ pay further following the year-on-year cuts we’ve recently experienced, which is what would happen if the DDRB followed the NHS England line, will simply bring us one step closer to general practice collapsing under the workload pressure and crisis in morale.’

However, NHS England’s supplementary evidence also included a piece of good news for GPs, as NHS England confirmed that it will now pay PMS practices for locum superannuations.

The DDRB had asked how shouldering this cost for GMS but not PMS contractors was in line with NHS England’s ‘equitable funding’ policies.

NHS England responded: ‘At the time of the decision to transfer responsibility for employers’ pension contributions for locums, it was not clear to what extent PCTs had previously made bespoke payments in relation to locum superannuation costs for PMS practices. NHS England has since undertaken an exercise across its area teams to collect details of what is included within PMS baseline expenditure for each practice.

‘On the basis of this exercise, NHS England has concluded that funding should be transferred to PMS practices on the same basis as GMS practices. The exercise has shown that, in practice, a number of area teams have already transferred funding to PMS practices in this way.’

Dr Vautrey said: ‘We have been told that NHS England are writing to area teams telling them that they should now pay PMS practices the locum superannuation payments in line with payments already made to GMS practices. This comes after persistent pressure from GPC and so we are pleased that PMS practices are to finally get what is owing to them. This will be backdated to April.’