I almost felt sorry for Matt Hancock. His first substantive task as health secretary was to announce a disappointing 2% ‘pay rise’ for GPs.
This pay award was half of that recommended by the DDRB, eliciting understandably angry responses from GP leaders.
The reason for my sympathy is that I don’t for a second think he had any say in this. I’m sure the decision was made before his tenure, and it was probably made by the Treasury, anyhow. It’s not the best way to kick off your time in post.
However, this sympathy quickly dissipated when I read his justification for the award. He said: ’GPs face a significant challenge in numbers and we need to recruit large numbers over a short period, meaning any pay rise needs to be balanced against our aim for a growing number of practitioners.’
Yes, you read that right.
Now, any sensible person would look at general practice over the past few years and realise that we are losing GPs. They would also posit that one of the reasons for this is that pay awards haven’t been sufficient. So why on earth are we going to see an influx of GPs now? Were they all staying away from general practice because of the high earnings, and have now been convinced to join the profession because they are happier with a below-inflation pay award?
I’ve argued on these pages that it’s not just resources that will attract younger GPs. But if you think you’re going to successfully increase recruitment with below-inflation pay rises, you might need to reconsider your priorities.