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NHS spared in public sector pay freeze announcement

PCSE payment issues

Doctors and other NHS workers will not be affected by the public sector pay freeze announced in today’s Spending Review, the Government has said.

The Government had previously announced the NHS would get an extra £3bn in funding, of which £1bn will be spent on tackling long waiting lists for patients referred for treatment.

The remainder will be used to reduce mental health waiting lists, to expand the NHS workforce and and to ‘ease existing pressures’ within the NHS, the Government said.

It is unclear if this would benefit GPs, with the announcement making no specific mention of GPs.

Set against a dire outlook for the economy in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the Government said: ‘In order to ensure fairness between the public and private sectors, and protect public sector jobs and investment in services as Covid-19 continues to impact the public finances, the Government will temporarily pause headline pay awards for some workforces.’ 

However it added: ‘Pay rises for over one million NHS workers and the lowest paid will continue despite the challenging economic context.’

The review also committed £18bn of funding towards Covid vaccines, PPE and testing.

The document said: ‘SR20 confirms £733m in 2021/22 for the UK Vaccines Taskforce to purchase successful vaccines and £128m for research and development (R&D) and vaccines manufacturing. Further funding will be allocated from the Covid-19 reserve as needed.’

It added: ‘The Government also remains committed to providing PPE to frontline workers to protect them from Covid-19 and reduce transmission. 

‘On top of over £15bn for PPE purchases and logistics already provided in this financial year, SR20 provides £2.1bn to purchase and store PPE, sufficient funding to meet expected demand and maintain a four-month stockpile across 2021/22.’

BMA Council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul warned that the healthcare investment pledged did not go far enough.

He said: ‘As a result of Covid-19 we have seen doctors going above and beyond what is normally required of them, going so far as to put their lives on the line on a daily basis, and they have done this despite the historic cuts in real terms pay inflicted on them over the past decade.

‘It is therefore only right that the Government does not intend to freeze pay, but at a time when burnout and morale are so critical the Chancellor should go further and make clear that he intends fair pay increases in recognition of the extraordinary efforts of the whole healthcare workforce.’

The news comes as general practice was previously allocated a £150m fund to keep services running through the Covid vaccination campaign until March 2021.