The government has recommended a 4.5% pay increase for salaried GPs in line with recommendations from the Doctors and Dentists Review Body (DDRB), which offers independent advice on pay. The rise for doctors comes alongside a 4.75% overall increase for NHS staff, which NHS leaders have warned could force cuts to areas including primary care funding.
The increase falls far below the current level of inflation and has been described as an 'insult' by the BMA - which has also warned that because the government has not delivered extra funding to cover the cost of the rise, practices awarding the rise to their staff will be left significantly out of pocket.
The BMA said the award was a 'kick in the teeth' for both GP partners and salaried GPs - and warned the government's approach would accelerate the decline in the GP workforce.
The government's failure to offer additional funding to cover the cost of the increase came despite a strongly worded warning from the DDRB over the potential impact on general practice of forcing the profession to operate within financial packages set in very different times.
Annual increases in GP practice funding are fixed as part of a five-year deal that began in 2019 - and the government has said multi-year deals of this type should not be revisited.
However, the DDRB warned in its report to UK governments: 'We would strongly urge the governments to consider the unique economic and workforce context, the need to protect the relative pay position of staff on multi-year deals, and the issues of recruitment, retention and motivation outlined above, and work with the trade unions to take action to address these issues.
'We would also wish to stress the harm that may be caused to recruitment, retention and motivation by not acting. Given the exceptional and unusual nature of the current year, we do not believe that the governments taking action would set the kind of precedent that DHSC told us about. In fact, a lack of action would set a different precedent, that workforce groups under multi-year deals should not expect there to be an appropriate response to exceptional changes to the economic and wider context, should they take place during the period that a multi-year deal is active.'
Real-terms pay cut
BMA England GP committee chair Dr Farah Jameel said: 'Today’s announcement is a kick in the teeth to both GP partners and salaried GPs in England, who have spent the last two years going above and beyond, against all odds to protect and care for their communities.
'For GP partners, locked in a five-year pay deal that was agreed pre-pandemic, and now with inflation sky-rocketing, to offer nothing in addition to recognise their intense efforts and transformation of services during COVID-19, nor to pay their staff the recommended uplift, or meet the increased costs of running practices, is a complete insult.
'GPs and their teams have been at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 and in May alone delivered an estimated 28.3m patient appointments. To, therefore, fail to recognise these efforts with a fair and substantial pay uplift demonstrates just how little ministers think of GPs.'
GPonline reported earlier this month that the BMA had called for a £10,000-plus rise in pay scales for salaried GPs. Dr Jameel added: 'As was made clear in the BMA’s evidence to the DDRB, the current pay ranges for salaried GPs have ceased to meaningfully reflect reality. In the face of rampant inflation, the decision to only give them a 4.5% increase this year - another real-terms pay cut - the gap between what salaried GPs should be paid and what they are being paid will widen even further.
'The truth is that GP shortages are compromising patient safety, and today’s announcement of another real-terms pay cut for our members is likely to speed up, not slow down, the number of GPs leaving the profession when we need them the most.
'With a worldwide shortage of doctors, the NHS faces an uphill struggle to retain the GPs it has when there are better paid jobs overseas. It is time that Ministers woke up to this reality and acted to stop the crisis they want to pretend doesn’t exist from getting any worse.'
BMA sessional GP committee co-chairs Dr Samira Anane and Dr Bethan Roberts said: 'The BMA has been concerned for some time that the current DDRB salary model for sessional GPs is not for purpose, and undermines the ability of sessional GPs to negotiate appropriate salaries.
'It fails to reflect the reality of salaried GPs' pay which can, in turn, suppress remuneration for this group of doctors and misleads employers regarding the market rate for sessional doctors. This is all the more significant given there is a significant gender pay gap in the salaried GP workforce with female salaried GPs making up the majority – over 70% in England.'
Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay said: 'We asked the independent pay review bodies for their recommendations and I am pleased to accept them in full.
'We want a fair deal for staff. Very high inflation-driven settlements would have a worse impact on pay packets in the long run than proportionate and balanced increases now, and it is welcome that the pay review bodies agree with this approach.'