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Government U-turn excludes GPs from DDRB pay review

Exclusive:  The Government has scrapped the independent pay review for GPs once again this year and hinted that practices will be hit by further 'quality and efficiency gains' in order to justify any uplift in pay.

Pulse can reveal health secretary Andrew Lansley sent a letter to the Doctors and Dentists' Review Body (DDRB) in July saying there would be ‘no need' for it to make any recommendations this year for GP and dentist pay from 2013/14.

He said there was a ‘well-established basis' for allocating the 1% public sector pay rise set by the Treasury for the next two years, and that the Department of Health will hammer out any uplift in pay or expenses through negotiations with the GPC.

The Government's U-turn comes after it said it would reinstate the independent pay review process by the DDRB from 2013.

The annual review – where the body makes recommendations on pay after considering evidence from the four UK Governments, the BMA and NHS Employers – was suspended by Mr Lansley in 2010 in light of the public-sector pay freeze imposed by the Treasury.

It also says the DH will negotiate on any uplift for practice expenses, but that further ‘quality and efficiency gains' might be needed by GPs this year.

The letter said: ‘There are other issues that the Government will need to resolve for GPs and dentists, namely the quality and efficiency gains that should be expected and any decisions about the apportionment of uplift, but these are matters for the contract discussions with the GPC and the General Dental Practice Committee.

‘This mirrors the process over the past two years when pay was frozen, but decisions were needed in relation to an expenses uplift.'

The letter stated the DH will still submit evidence to the DDRB on the position in earnings and expenses and recruitment and retention for GPs, but this will only be ‘for information'.

The DDRB review will still apply for salaried GPs employed by PCTs, and will also look at whether they should be paid differently depending on where they live. A letter from the Treasury to the DDRB dated 16 July asked the pay review body to prepare recommendations on how the 1% pay rise should be distributed and to consider ‘how to make public-sector pay more responsive to local labour markets'.

NHS Employers has launched a survey to assess this local variation, but said the resulting report would only form ground for decisions on pay for salaried GPs directly employed by the NHS.

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC deputy chair, said: ‘I don't understand why the Government has made this decision because they have always been able to amend DDRB recommendations and they have done in the past. The track they have chosen is disappointing and unnecessary.'

‘The Government has said they will negotiate with us on pay and expenses so we intend to redouble our efforts to ensure that GPs are treated the same as other doctors. GPs expenses are going through the roof and these expenses need to be met.'

A DH spokesperson said: ‘We are committed to ensuring doctors get the fairest pay deal possible in the current financial climate. Last year, the Chancellor announced that public sector pay increases would be capped at 1% in 2013-15. The DDRB has been asked to make recommendations for how the capped pay increase should be best distributed between directly-employed NHS doctors. For independent contractors, decisions about the distribution of the 1% increase will be made as part of the ongoing discussions about the GP contract.'