DDRB pay award will fuel practice closures, warns BMA

Doctors face a real-terms pay cut under a 1% overall pay rise recommended by the independent doctors and dentists review body (DDRB) that will fuel pressure on the NHS by driving up GP practice closures, hospital rota gaps and consultant vacancies, the BMA has warned.

Dr Mark Porter (Photo: BMA)
Dr Mark Porter (Photo: BMA)

A GP contract deal for 2017/18 - published last month - also aimed to deliver a 1% pay rise, and although the GPC said it would not solve the GP crisis, the removal of a bureaucratic directed enhanced service and funding to cover expenses such as rising indemnity costs were welcomed.

But the 1% rise for the wider medical profession recommended in a DDRB report on Tuesday has been dubbed a 'bitter blow' by BMA officials. The DDRB says the case for maintaining the 1% NHS pay cap is 'diminishing', but can be justified if it leads to rising recruitment to ease pressure on the health service.

BMA chair Dr Mark Porter said: 'Yet again the annual pay review is nothing other than a cover for driving down real pay in the health service. The DDRB is recommending just a 1% pay uplift for doctors, well below the current cost of living rise of 2.3%.

GP income

'In real terms, doctors’ pay has sharply declined in the past five years, with junior doctors seeing their income drop by 17% at a time when their morale has been badly hit by the government’s mishandling of the new contract. Over the same period consultants have seen their pay drop by 14% and GPs by 13%.'

He said the DDRB advice would anger doctors 'during a period when many are working harder than ever before in an environment of rising patient demand, stagnating budgets and staff shortages'.

Dr Porter added: 'Hospital doctors and GPs are bearing the brunt of the funding crisis facing the NHS, and are choosing to leave. This is where rota gaps, consultant vacancies and closed GP practices start. With the NHS at breaking point, the health service needs a proper, long-term workforce plan and not piecemeal initiatives that offer only a short-term fix.

'We will analyse the DDRB report in detail, but these recommendations will come as a bitter blow to a workforce already wondering whether the government knows or cares about the demoralising effect of year-on-year pay cuts.'

NHS funding

DDRB advice says the 1% cap on public sector pay rises is justified because 'affordability of the NHS across the UK continues to be a key consideration'.

The report says: 'The affordability of the NHS across the UK continues to be a key consideration and we recognise the scale of the challenges in each country. The figures in England show that in recent years the main driver of paybill growth was workforce expansion.

'It is apparent that maintaining the public sector pay policy of 1% over the spending review period would contribute to the DH’s and trusts’ ambitions of meeting their demanding efficiency targets.'

However, the DDRB acknowledges 'concerns' about pay evidence from health departments and employer organisations, warning that they 'seem to us to have given little consideration to the possible effects of ongoing pay restraint on the recruitment, retention and motivation of our remit groups in their pay proposals'.

The DDRB warns against 'complacency' on the part of governments seeking to maintain the 1% cap, but concludes that there is a 'continuing, though diminishing, case for 1% again this year, if this enables more staff to join the service to alleviate workload pressures'.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has formally accepted the DDRB recommendation, and a DH spokeswoman said: 'The dedication and sheer hard work of our NHS staff is absolutely crucial to delivering world-class care for patients. We are pleased to announce that all NHS staff will receive a 1% pay increase.'

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