‘It was right to increase radically doctors’ pay both for GPs and consultants because we wanted to attract more of them,’ Mr Blair said at a King’s Fund event in London.
When Labour came to power in 1997 ‘you couldn’t get doctors to fill the posts’ that were available, he said. ‘Now the issue is whether you can get jobs for them all. I think we did the right thing by uplifting GP pay.’
Mr Blair denied that the government had poured too much money too fast into the NHS, and said pay rises had played a key role in enabling reform.
‘People may say we wasted money by paying GPs too much, but we couldn’t have gone down the path of reform without saying this was part of a settlement that would mean GPs and consultants were paid more but other providers could come in.’
Greater efficiency could always be achieved, he said. ‘The concept of waste is there in any health service. You could always do things more efficiently.’
After the conference, GPC negotiator Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘He’s right that the pay rises were justified; they recognise the significant extra quality and access work. GPs have delivered what the government wanted.’
Dr Vautrey said Mr Blair had always defended the pay rises, but that others in the government had ‘batted on a different wicket’.