Viewpoint: Dr Chaand Nagpaul: BMA rebuts 'slanted' NHS England GP pay evidence

NHS England's recent submission to the DDRB contained another plethora of myths about GP pay and little about the increases in workload and real improvements to patient care that GPs have delivered since the new contract came into force in 2004, writes GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul.

Dr Nagpaul: 'We should be celebrating the professionalism of GPs and their contributions.'
Dr Nagpaul: 'We should be celebrating the professionalism of GPs and their contributions.'

It was a disappointing start to the DDRB process – and it is one that we are actively challenging.

In terms of pay, NHS England has throughout its submission quoted selectively and in a disappointingly slanted manner.

It claims that GPs have had cash rises of 41% since 2004, while the number of patient contact per GPs has dropped by 11%. These figures, and others, paint a wholly distorted picture of a workforce apparently undertaking less work and earning more, and is used as justification to continue the long run of pay freezes and effective pay cuts in future years.

Any GP reading this submission will know that it simply doesn’t reflect reality. NHS England’s own research shows that on average pay has risen by just 2.5% since 2004. The increases in the years immediately following 2004 were, as is very well documented, designed to address decades of poor pay that left the GP workforce facing a recruitment crisis, partially as GPs were paid less than other doctors in the NHS.

These rises have since been chipped away by successive funding cuts that have actually seen GP income fall in real terms by 11% between 2008 and 2012, with GPs not even having the benefit of pay freezes afforded to other NHS staff.

Through all this GPs have been working harder than ever before – something which is sadly not acknowledged in NHS England’s submission enough. There are a range of facts itcould have used to support GPs and thank them for the work they have done.

For a start, an estimated 340m GP consultations now take place every year, up 40m since 2010.

GPs are well established as the leaders of caring for 18m patients in the community suffering from long-term conditions – a role that will expand in the future as the government seeks to move more care away from hospitals and into the community.

The intensity and complexity of GP consultations has rocketed, adding stress to overstretched GPs.

This has been accompanied by increased rates of diagnosis and treatment for life changing conditions, such as diabetes, all as a result of the hard work of GPs and the improvements inthe GP contract.

Patients have got a good deal from a good contract. Despite these improvements and expansion of care, GP practices remain under intense pressure from a combination of rising patient demand and the perversity of declining overall funding.

It is this difficult environment that we should be seeking to address as it is this, not GP pay that is having a real detrimental effect on patient care.

The BMA has already been vigorously rebutting this slanted NHS England evidence in the media, not least in a recent opinion piece for the Telegraph. We will continue to do this until NHS England and the government realise that we should be celebrating the professionalism of GPs and their contributions, rather than constantly undermining their hard work.

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