The Government’s decision not to increase GP partner pay is ‘completely unfair’ and fails to recognise the vital contributions made during the Covid-19 pandemic, the BMA has warned in a letter to the health secretary.
GPs and junior doctors have been left ‘incensed’ by lower salary increases, particularly as the Government had explicitly stated that pay awards for doctors were to recognise the hard work of NHS staff.
In the letter to Matt Hancock, GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey called for the Government to bring GPs pay increases in line with other branches of the medical profession.
Ministers announced on the 21 July that consultants and staff grade, associate specialist and specialty doctors in England would receive uplifts of 2.8%.
But, as Dr Vautrey’s letter states, ‘both GP principals and junior doctors are subject to existing pay awards which increase salaries by a significantly lower percentage’, due to a multi-year settlement.
The letter added: ‘Throughout the pandemic all doctors, including GPs and junior doctors, have worked tirelessly and flexibly with many working in new areas using new technology and equipment often under different and longer hours.
‘GP principals and junior doctors are subject to existing pay awards which increase salaries by a significantly lower percentage.
‘It is completely unfair that they be denied recognition of their work during the COVID-19 pandemic by virtue of agreeing in good faith to these multi-year pay awards, and in the case of GP principals, facing an additional financial penalty as the shortfall for the pay increase for their staff has not been provided.’
The letter called on the Government to address the ‘clear imbalance’ by bringing GP partner pay in line with that awarded to other doctors and ‘by doing so, publicly recognise the vitally important contribution these doctors have made, and continue to make, at this unprecedented time’.
In Scotland and Wales, ministers announced all doctors would receive the 2.8% uplift, showing a clear disparity with the announcement in England, the BMA pointed out.
Dr Vautrey also said the Government needed to look at other ways to support the medical workforce including the ‘immediate release’ of the Covid-19 national fund, announced at the beginning of the pandemic to reimburse GP practices incurring additional expenses as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.
The General Practice Covid Support Fund was promised by NHS England but Pulse reported at the end of May that the Treasury asked to see evidence that GP practices have actually incurred additional costs before releasing any funding. Since then there has been no further updates.
Costs have included procuring PPE, establishing ‘hot hubs’, providing locum support and adopting necessary remote consulting technology, Dr Vautrey said at the time, as well as ensuring additional support in care homes and visits to shielding patients.