Last week the government announced that NHS doctors and dentists would receive a 2.8% pay rise in 2020/21 - backdated to April - after it accepted recommendations from the Doctors and Dentists Review Body (DDRB) in full.
However, GP partners and junior doctors were excluded from the pay uplift having agreed multi-year pay awards as a result of pre-pandemic contractual agreements, which the BMA GP committee described at the time as a 'kick in the teeth'.
In their letter to Matt Hancock, Junior Doctors' Comittee (JDC) chair Dr Sarah Hallett and GPC England chair Dr Richard Vautrey said the decision to not increase the junior doctor and GP pay awards was ‘completely unfair’.
They said: ‘Throughout the pandemic all doctors, including GPs and junior doctors, have worked tirelessly and flexibly with many working in new areas using new technology and equipment often under different and longer hours.
‘GP principals and junior doctors are subject to existing pay awards which increase salaries by a significantly lower percentage. It is completely unfair that they be denied recognition of their work during the COVID-19 pandemic by virtue of agreeing in good faith to these multi-year pay awards, and in the case of GP principals, facing an additional financial penalty as the shortfall for the pay increase for their staff has not been provided.’
They added: We are, therefore, calling on the government to address this clear imbalance by bringing both GP principals and junior doctors pay in line with the latest pay award, and by doing so, publicly recognise the vitally important contribution these doctors have made, and continue to make, at this unprecedented time.’
The letter also called on the government to immediately release the COVID-19 funding package for general practice to reimburse practices for additional costs they have incurred during the pandemic.
The disparity in pay awards to doctors in England contrasts with decisions taken in Scotland and Wales, where ministers announced all doctors would receive a 2.8 per cent pay uplift to recognise their efforts during the pandemic.
The failure to re-think the agreed five-year pay package for general practice in England 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.
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.'