A letter sent to all the independent public sector pay review bodies, including the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration (DDRB) from the chief secretary to the treasury Greg Hands said that pay would be targeted.
Mr Hands said the 1% cap, announced by the chancellor in July’s budget, could be varied to help address recruitment problems, with some groups of workers receiving more or less than 1%.
The BMA accused the treasury of undermining the independent pay review process, calling the announcement a ‘disgraceful act of bad faith’.
With the continuing recruitment crisis in general practice, however, Mr Hands comments will be seen as an indication that GPs could be set for a higher than 1% award next year.
In March the government awarded a 1.16% rise in contract payments to deliver a 1% pay rise in-line with the ongoing freeze.
Chancellor George Osborne announced in his most recent budget that public sector workers would receive a 1% a year pay rise for the next four years.
Mr Hands told the pay review chiefs in his letter last week that the government expects that to the applied in a ‘targeted manner to support the delivery of public services, and to address recruitment and retention pressures.’
‘This may mean that some workers could receive more than 1% while others could receive less,' he added.
Relevant government departments will submit proposals covering their workforce needs, Mr Hands said.
BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter said: ‘Not content with making frontline NHS staff bear the brunt of cuts in recent years, the government is now moving the goal posts barely two months after its announcement of a capped 1% pay rise.
‘For many doctors this may mean another cut in pay, which is lower in real terms than it was a decade ago.
‘This constant chipping away at pay at a time when frontline NHS staff are working harder than ever to keep up with rising demand on the health service leaves staff feeling devalued and demoralised.
‘This disgraceful act of bad faith totally undermines what are supposed to be independent pay review processes, but which the government simply chooses to ignore when it suits them.’