The Government’s funding restraints are ‘unfairly punishing’ GPs at a time when they are working ‘harder than ever’, the BMA has said.
Writing in its submission to the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration (DDRB), the BMA said the increase for 2015/16 should be treated in line with the ‘wider economy’ rather than the Treasury’s blanket 1% public sector pay directive.
It comes after health secretary Jeremy Hunt claimed that years of underfunding in general practice was a result of ‘penance’ for the 2004 GP contract.
The BMA evidence highlighted the significant problems of workforce and morale, and the continuing decline in funding allocated to general practice as a proportion of the total NHS budget.
The submission said the BMA is ‘increasingly concerned’ over the DDRB’s ability to ‘exercise its independence’ from Government.
It also said last year’s recommendation – which saw the DDRB refrain from making a UK-wide recommendation on a gross GP funding increase – was ‘extremely disappointing’ and requested a return to making recommendations on gross earnings in this year’s review.
The submission said: ‘We believe that doctors are being unfairly punished by government when pay rises above 1% are regularly being seen across the economy, and at a time when doctors are working harder than ever to deliver a safe and quality service to patients.’
According to the BMA, whose evidence included Pulse data showing one in 10 GP partner posts is vacant in the UK, the DDRB should take a ‘bottom up’ approach to next year’s recommendation, basing it on ‘what award is needed to recruit, retain and motivate doctors’, rather than being bound by Government-stipulated affordability constraints.
The submission states that in the light of continued low fill rates of GP training places, general practice recruitment problems ‘will continue to worsen’, and that Treasury pay policy will ‘tip the balance’ in recruitment across all specialties.
The BMA also highlighted the Government’s plans to recruit 200 US-trained physician associates at salaries of £50,000 as a ‘significant concern’, arguing that ‘to achieve the same level of salary and terms and conditions would take a UK-trained doctor 10 or so years’.
The evidence concluded: ‘We ask that DDRB asserts its independence to make a full set of recommendations… We are not proposing a specific figure for the 2016/17 pay award, but we argue that doctors should be treated in line with the wider economy, where pay settlements are running at higher than the public sector pay policy cap.’
Mr Hunt said at the Conservative party conference: ’Labour signed a disastrous contract in 2003 and since then, in penance really, the NHS has not really wanted to put extra money into general practice and it been has starved of resources progressively, with increases in hospital doctors but not increases in primary care doctors.’