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So will Scotland and Wales deal final blow to GPs’ UK-wide contract?

By Richard Hoey

Yesterday, it looked like the Scottish Government and Welsh Assembly were about to launch separate GP pay reviews to England, but now confusion reins, says Pulse editor By Richard Hoey

If you come to read my editorial in this week’s print issue of Pulse, you may raise your eyebrows at the news Scotland and Wales are to take submissions from the Doctors’ and Dentists’ Review Body, even as England refuses to.

The move could see different pay deals in different parts of the UK, and would surely deal a final blow to the UK-wide contract, so how come there was no coverage of such a big story in Pulse’s news section?

Well there would have been, had it not been for a rather dramatic U-turn by the Scots in particular, who claimed late on Monday afternoon that no decision had actually been taken – in time for us to hold the press on our news article, but not on the editorial.

Some background then. Pulse revealed back in September that the Department of Health in England would refuse to take submissions from the DDRB this year and next, in what was widely assumed would presage even tougher pay deals than had been expected.

But Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all at the time reserved their right to listen to what the DDRB had to say and to give the BMA a forum to argue that a pay freeze should at the very least take into account soaring practice expenses.

We chased them last week, to check where they were with that decision, and a press officer from the Scottish Government told Pulse ‘all parties will be making submissions as normal this year’ on GP pay.

A statement from the Welsh Assembly similarly confirmed that the DDRB would be making recommendations, and so we had our scoop. GPs really were facing the possibility of a variety of different pay deals, depending on where in the UK they lived (Northern Ireland, incidentally, told us it would not take a DDRB submission).

It all began to unravel only on Monday, when we approached the Office of Manpower Economics, which runs the DDRB, for its reaction, and were unexpectedly told it had still not heard from Scotland and Wales.

We’re a pretty diligent bunch here in Pulse Towers, and we did think it was a bit peculiar that the Scottish and Welsh governments would tell us their intentions on GP pay but not the body that normally recommends upon it, so we made some follow-up calls to double-check.

And so it was that after, in the case of the Scottish Government, a delay of five hours, we were told to our horror that both governments were now denying any decision had been made.

All of which leaves the whole GP pay review process looking a bit of a mess. If Scotland and Wales aren’t going to listen to the DDRB after all, then what’s stopping them going ahead and admitting it, like the DH did two months ago?

On the other hand, if they are planning to give GPs a voice, then why the cloak and dagger denials all of a sudden? Could it be that the DH in England is less than enamoured at the thought of being the bad guys here, and has put the thumb-screws on?

Scottish and Welsh GPs ought to be asking those questions of their governments now.

Pulse’s prediction for the future of GP pay is indelibly recorded in the editorial of this week’s print issue. Just imagine the implications for the UK-wide contract if it proves to be right.

By Richard Hoey, Pulse editor