BMA to demand significant pay rises to combat 15 years of real-term cuts

The BMA is set to demand significant pay rises for all doctors to undo over a decade of pay erosion, which doctors' leaders say has seen GP pay fall by more than 25% in real terms since 2008.

(Photo: Mario Gutiérrez/Getty Images)

Delegates at the association's annual representative meeting (ARM) in Brighton backed a motion calling for the BMA to 'achieve pay restoration to 2007 value for its members within the next five years' and warned that industrial action might be necessary to achieve this.

Proposing the motion Dr Emma Runswick, a junior doctor and member of the BMA council, said that eroding doctors' pay had been a 'deliberate choice by UK governments, starting from the banking crash, to make us pay for crisis after crisis that we didn't create.'

She said: 'Doctors' pay has been systematically cut since 2008. In real terms, junior doctors are down around 25%, SAS doctors around 15%, GPs over a quarter, and consultants over 30%.

'The rising cost of living outpaces current pay deals and predicted DDRB [Doctors and Dentists Review Body] awards by 8% or more this year. That is the equivalent of a whole month of pay – a whole month you are working for free compared to last year.'

'Pay restoration is the right, just and moral thing to do,' she added. 'It is a significant demand and it won't be easy to win. Every part of the BMA needs to plan for how to achieve this. I'm not foolish. I know that it's likely that industrial action will be required to move the governments on this issue. What each branch of practice and nation does may well be different, but all of us need to take action.'

GP contract

GP Dr Andrew Scott-Brown highlighted the impact inflation and this year's GP contract imposition in England has had on practices.

He said: 'Please spare a thought for the implications of mid-term changes to the five-year GP contract for this year, [that came] without any acknowledgment of the impact from COVID, the efforts put into supporting system recovery, or of current inflation on fragile small practices.

'This is not just a problem for GP principals, but will impact severely the resources and remuneration for sessionals and locum GPs.'

Dr Scott-Brown said that rising inflation meant that practice expenses had 'soaked up' all of this year's 2% uplift and many partners had experienced a pay cut during the past year.

Meanwhile, consultant Dr Eleanor Draeger said that she was a single parent who was 'struggling to survive' on her salary. She said: 'If doctors can't get pay restoration after two years of a pandemic, in which we risked our lives to save our patients, no one else can.'

Many doctors speaking during the debate said that the motion did not go far enough and demanded full pay restoration within the next year.

GP income

In May the BMA junior doctor committee voted to campaign for full pay restoration. The BMA has said that take-home pay for the average junior doctor in England fell by 22.4% in real terms between 2008/9 and 2020/21. The union is expected to ballot junior doctors on possible industrial action in early 2023.

Evidence from the DHSC to the Doctors and Dentists Review Body (DDRB), which advises the government on pay, earlier this year shows that average GP partner income in 2019/20 was £121,800 - down 15% in real terms compared with 2006/7.

Salaried GP pay at £63,600 in 2019/20 is down 8.5% in real terms over the same period, figures quoted in the DHSC evidence show. However, these figures do not highlight the impact rising inflation has had during the past two years.

The figures also do not account for part-time working and therefore do not accurately reflect full-time rates of pay, but they do provide an indication of how rates of pay have changed over time across the profession.

The motion in full:

That this meeting notes with horror that all doctors’ pay has fallen against RPI since 2008 to the tune of up to 30%. This represents a career earnings loss amounting to millions of pounds for each of us. We mandate the BMA to achieve pay restoration to 2007 value for its members within the next 5 years and to evidence its progress against this aim at every ARM until restoration is achieved.

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