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Real-terms pay cut will only undermine GP morale further

Dr Kailash Chand

Today’s announcement of a meagre 2% pay rise is a real slap on the face for GPs, coming at a time when understaffed and under-resourced primary care services are having to manage unprecedented levels of patient demand.

This is not a pay rise. It’s another pay cut. This will only make a bad situation much worse. GPs have faced over a decade of austerity pay cuts and an onslaught on their living standards. The Government’s offer fails to compensate primary care for the huge losses in income they have faced under the brutal pay restraint policy since 2010.

Remember what the new secretary of state for health and social care said only last week, about how ‘heart-breaking’ it was to see how ‘under-valued’ NHS staff feel. Considering those words, GPs in England will rightly feel both anger and disappointment that this sentiment has not been matched with action. The offer is a disgrace, and Government spin to try to make the rise seem bigger will surely anger the whole GP fraternity.

GPs today, across the board, are underpaid and overworked. The NHS is losing good people because GPs feel demoralised. They haven’t had a pay rise in seven years and the 2% uplift this year is a real terms pay cut. This administration has once again ignored the needs of general practice and is further pushing it into a permanent decline.

No wonder many GPs think there is a conspiracy to undermine and destroy general practice

My personal feelings lay somewhere in between anger and disappointment. Anger that nobody seems to understand the seriousness of the situation facing general practice in England. Disappointment that Government doesn’t realise that if general practice fails, the whole NHS fails.

We know GP income streams have declined by 11% at the same time as there has been a 2% rise in costs – for example for maintaining premises, covering energy bills and employing staff. Around 62% of GPs’ overall budgets goes on the costs of running the practice, a huge proportion.

The moment of crisis many of us been warning of has arrived, and this insulting pay rise will only sink it into further turmoil. The profession has been brought to its knees by a chronic slump in investment meaning there are simply not enough family doctors to go round, and above all by the callous attitude of this Government towards it. No wonder many GPs think there is a conspiracy to undermine and destroy general practice.

General practice is at the heart of the NHS and if it is left to wither, as is the case now, it could sow the seeds of an unprecedented disintegration of the NHS at all levels.

Dr Kailash Chand is a retired GP from Tameside