‘There is no funding for a 6% pay uplift to be awarded’ to NHS staff including GPs, BMA Northern Ireland has been told.
In its annual report published yesterday, the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration recommended a 6% pay rise for GPs in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
But the NI Department of Health said in its DDRB submission that there would need to be departmental budgetary reductions even before taking account of inflationary pressures.
They said that there was ‘no capacity to afford a pay uplift’ for 2023/24 without implementing corresponding cuts to expenditure on services or additional funding being made available.
Due to the UK Government deciding not to supply extra funding to DHSC/NHSE to fund the NHS pay rise there will not be any automatic extra funding for the devolved nations.
The 2023/24 budget was published in April and saw Northern Ireland departments allocated a combined resource budget of £14.2bn, of which £7.30bn was allocated to the Department of Health.
Pulse was told last month that the Strategic Planning and Performance Group (SPPG), the body responsible for delivery of health services in Northern Ireland, has been asked to make cuts to primary care in order to balance the books, and this could mean around £5m is taken out of core general practice funding.
The BMA’s Northern Ireland council chair Dr Tom Black said the union has been told that there is ‘no funding’ to back the recommendation.
He said: ‘In our evidence to the DDRB we highlighted the serious and sustained pressures doctors in Northern Ireland are facing.
‘They have seen the same levels of pay erosion as doctors in the rest of the UK, but without some of the benefits of the same pension reforms.’
Dr Black said that BMA is ‘deeply concerned’ at the budget situation in Northern Ireland. ‘We have been told that there is no funding for a pay uplift to be awarded,’ he added.
‘We have written to the Secretary of State and all of the local party leaders to clearly and categorically state that this situation is completely unacceptable.’
He added that a 6% pay uplift is ‘unlikely to address the deep discontent among doctors; around pay erosion and working conditions and the lack of some ‘simple mitigations’ like GP list closures that would address some of the stress doctors face.
He said: ‘It certainly does not make them feel valued, and it will not stem the tide of doctors looking to retire or work elsewhere where there is better pay, and more value is placed on the vital role doctors have in society.
‘We urge our local politicians to get back to work and engage with the BMA as soon as the assembly is restored to ensure funding is ringfenced so the uplift can be paid as soon as possible, but to also make a commitment to full pay restoration in Northern Ireland.’
The NI Department of Health told Pulse its financial situation has not changed since it gave evidence to the DDRB.
Pulse had already reported that Scottish GPs were receiving a 6% pay rise based on the DDRB report, while Wales has yet to announce its position.
As announced yesterday, NHS consultants, SAS doctors, salaried dentists and salaried GPs in England will receive uplifts of 6% this year, with GP practices to receive backdated funding to raise salaries.
However, England’s GP partners remain tied into the five-year deal that aims to give them a vastly below-inflation annual pay uplift of 2.1%.