BMA condemns 'kick in the teeth' over GP pay and demands rethink on five-year deal

The government's failure to uplift GP pay as part of wider increases to public sector remuneration this week is a 'further kick in the teeth' as the profession awaits details of a COVID-19 support fund, the BMA has warned.

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey (Photo: BMA)
BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey (Photo: BMA)

NHS doctors and dentists will receive a 2.8% pay rise in 2020/21 - backdated to April - after the government announced on 21 July that it had accepted recommendations from the Doctors and Dentists Review Body (DDRB) in full.

For salaried GPs, the announcement means pay scales in the model contract will rise by 2.8% - although as independent contractors the change is not binding for practices.

For general practice as a whole, the five-year contract that kicked in from April 2019 includes fixed allowances for pay increases - and the DDRB was not asked to consider an uplift to this deal.

GP funding

But GP leaders have warned that long-term pay deals for GPs and junior doctors were agreed 'before anyone could have predicted the chaos COVID-19 would wreak on the NHS' - and that the deals now must be revisited.

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey told GPonline that the government's failure to recognise the impact of COVID-19 on general practice in its public sector pay announcement was a 'serious blow' to a profession still awaiting details of a promised COVID-19 support fund.

Dr Vautrey said: 'GP practices and their dedicated staff have spent the last few months working incredibly hard in completely overhauling services to guarantee that patients can continue receiving the care they need from their local surgery safely during the pandemic, and for this not to be recognised by the government will be felt as a serious blow.

'After such a tumultuous few months, this announcement comes with no extra funding to support practices to follow its recommendation for sessional GPs, nor allow GP partners a pay increase that truly reflects the immense efforts that they have gone to this year.'

Five-year contract

The Leeds GP added: 'The long-term pay deals for both GPs and junior doctors were agreed before anyone could have predicted the chaos COVID-19 would wreak on the NHS – nor the financial pressure it would put practices under – and this must be rectified.

'The applause of politicians for hardworking doctors now rings hollow. Practices in good faith pulled out all the stops for the public and many have now suffered financially. With the promised COVID-19 funding still not having materialised, today’s announcement – or lack of it – is just a further kick in the teeth for the profession.'

The failure to re-think the agreed five-year pay package for general practice in light of COVID-19 comes despite recognition from the DDRB of ongoing 'issues of recruitment and retention in general practice'.

The report acknowledges a decline in interest in partnership roles among GPs. GPonline reported earlier this year that general practice had lost more than 3,600 full-time equivalent (FTE) partners in the past six years.

GP workforce

The latest overall workforce numbers show that the fully-qualified FTE GP workforce fell by 712 in the past year.

A DHSC spokesperson said: 'The multi-year GP contract provides funding clarity and certainty to practices for five years, and was agreed with the BMA.

'GP practices have worked tirelessly to continue supporting their communities throughout this pandemic, and we will continue to back them as we move into our recovery.

'We are providing at least an extra £1.5bn for general practice over the next four years, which will help deliver an extra 50m appointments a year. This is in addition to the extra £4.5bn a year for primary and community care by 2023/24 as part of the NHS long-term plan.'

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