The Government’s proposal of a 1% pay rise for doctors in 2021/22 is ‘a kick in the teeth’ and a ‘dereliction of moral duty’, the BMA has said.
The Department of Health and Social Care published its evidence to the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration (DDRB) yesterday, which may make a recommendation on salaried GP pay – but will not include a recommendation for GP partners.
The Government’s evidence said that ‘anything higher’ than a 1% pay rise would require re-prioritisation’.
It justified its position by saying that ‘recruitment and retention are not only driven by satisfaction with reward, but by a culture and environment where staff want to work’.
Number 10 also said today it is what the Government ‘can afford’ at this time.
The Government’s pay rise position is not final until the DDRB has made its recommendation – and it has invited the review body to include salaried GP pay within this. GP partners are excluded as they are still under the five-year pay agreement which expires in 2024/25.
BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul called the pay rise proposal a ‘total dereliction of the Government’s moral duty and obligation’ to the NHS workforce.
He said: ‘This is a time at which the Government should demonstrate that it recognises the contribution of a workforce that has literally kept this country alive for the past 10 months.’
He also said it ‘comes as a kick in the teeth after a decade in which doctors have experienced real terms pay cuts of up to 30% and in the same week as the chancellor has announced a huge increase in the taxation on doctor’s pensions that will leave virtually all doctors worse off’.
He added: ‘The Doctors and Dentists Review Body must demonstrate that it is truly independent of Government and recognise the need for a fair pay uplift that makes up for historic pay cuts but also recognises the efforts made and personal risks doctors have taken during this terrible pandemic.’
The budget, announced on Wednesday, froze the GP pension lifetime allowance until 2026 – a move that BMA warned would lead to mass early retirement among doctors.
Last year, salaried GP pay bands saw an uplift of 2.8% but as long as pay is above the lowest level GP practices are free to negotiate pay rates with salaried doctors they employ.
It comes as the BMA said it is ‘scandalous’ that NHS pandemic funding is set to be cut at a time it ‘desperately needs significant investment to deal with the lasting impact of Covid-19’.
Dr Nagpaul said: ‘This virus will not just disappear in the summer – it will need continued focus and funding to deal with the threat of new variants and to make sure the public remain protected.
‘We know that the health service was severely underfunded and massively under-resourced going into this pandemic and it now faces a greater challenge of unprecedented proportions.’
He called for the Government to set out a ‘clear plan for additional investment’, with the BMA estimating it could take £5.4bn to address the backlog of patients alone.
It follows comments from Office for Budget Responsibility chairman Richard Hughes, who said the Government has made ‘no provision for virus-related spending’, including an annual revaccination programme and ongoing test and trace capacity, beyond next year.
‘Each of those things could cost billions and for the moment, nothing has been set aside within the Government spending plans for them – and in fact, the Government has actually cut £15bn from its post-pandemic spending plans’, he said.
Additional reporting by Costanza Pearce