Editorial: DoH will not win with back-door pay cuts

The government's target for inflation is 2 per cent and it is currently running at around 2.5 per cent. So in order simply to be running to stay still in terms of income, lifestyle,paying the mortgage and so on, everyone in the UK is looking for an annual pay rise of 2-2.5 per cent.

From time to time we can all accept that times are hard but if you are doing the same job you expect to maintain at least the same level of income from year to year.

Not so if you work for the health service, it seems. The DoH’s submission to the Doctors’ and Dentists’ Review Body calls for a mere 1.5 per cent rise for doctors. Plus even to agree to this amount the Whitehall mandarins want to see ‘efficiency savings’ from practices.

Yes, the powers that be in government want you to work harder for what is a pay cut in real terms.

For GPs such a proposal is in effect a double whammy. Not only would a 1.5 per cent rise in reality be a reduction in global sum income but they also would face wage demands from staff exceeding that figure.

Practices only offering experienced nurses, skilled practice managers and other staff a below-inflation rise are likely to find themselves advertising for new ones. So practice profits are squeezed from both sides, leaving GPs attempting to be ‘more productive’ for less money.

The government seems keen to blame GPs for the cost of primary care but it must remember that it agreed the contract and must therefore bear some of the responsibility. Furthermore it can hardly pin the inflation rate on GPs. The current GMS contract was supposed to reward GPs for the work they do. Instead we see the effects of the MPIG (and now threats of its withdrawal), additional indicators in the quality framework, real terms pay cuts and calls for even  more work for the global sum — a case of less reward for doing more. If the DoH really wants to renegotiate the contract it should do so openly, and not sneak in pay cuts through substandard annual reviews.

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