NHS pay freeze pouring fuel on fire in GP crisis, warns GPC

Treasury officials have 'their heads in the sand' over the growing crisis in general practice, GP leaders have warned, after ministers said the NHS pay freeze will continue in 2015/16.

Pay: freeze on GP pay set to continue
Pay: freeze on GP pay set to continue

In 2014/15, GPs received a 0.28% uplift condemned by the BMA as a ‘kick in the teeth’ for the profession.

A letter from chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander on 31 July to the independent body that advises the government on GP pay suggests the pay freeze will remain in place for 2015/16.

‘Pay restraint remains a crucial part of the consolidation plans that are continuing to help put the UK back on to the path of fiscal sustainability,’ the letter says.

Pay rise capped at 1%

In 2014/15 NHS staff not in line for incremental pay rises received a below-inflation rise of just 1%.

This cap will remain in place for 2015/16, the letter says, and as a result the independent Doctors and Dentists Review Body (DDRB) will not be asked to make recommendations on pay for doctors employed directly by the NHS.

The role the DDRB will play in advising on the pay of independent contractor GPs is yet to be made clear, but in the 2014/15 pay round the Treasury accepted its advice that GP pay should rise by just 0.28%.

The GPC disputed the evidence behind this advice, and has met DDRB officials to query its calculations ahead of the 2015/16 pay round.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said the letter suggested the pay freeze would remain in place and accused the Treasury of pouring ‘fuel on the fire’ in the growing GP crisis.

Recruitment problems clear

He also warned that the claim in Mr Alexander’s letter that ‘there are unlikely to be significant recruitment and retention issues for the majority of public sector workforces over the next year’ clearly did not apply to general practice.

‘It would appear that the Treasury has its head in the sand,’ said Dr Vautrey.

‘The letter suggests there are no recruitment problems – you only need to visit any practice in the land to find these problems. There is a crisis facing general practice. The Treasury’s actions just add fuel to the fire.’

He said the GPC would continue to push for a revision to the DDRB’s system for factoring in GP expenses to its advice on pay.

‘We need to get over to the DDRB how to calculate our expenses,’ he said. ‘We have met with the DDRB and been as clear as we can about how GP expenses are arrived at and can be recognised as part of the national process.’

He said the DDRB itself had recognised potential flaws in its calculations. ‘We have lived with the consequences this year. That’s why we have been working with them to see if there is an alternative.’

Read more: Third of practices have GP vacancies

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