Why the DDRB recommended a 4% pay increase for GPs

GPs are to receive a 2% pay increase in 2018/19, however the independent Doctors' and Dentists' Review Body (DDRB) recommended a pay rise of 4%.

The DDRB said a 4% increase would help with recruitment and retention (Photo: iStock.com/SolStock)
The DDRB said a 4% increase would help with recruitment and retention (Photo: iStock.com/SolStock)

The DDRB can consider targeted pay increases as part of its recommendations and this year it chose to focus on GPs and specialty doctors and associated specialists (SAS).

The report concluded that a larger increase in pay for GPs was warranted because it could help to boost the GP workforce through retaining existing doctors and encouraging new recruits.

'It is important that the rewards from working as a GP in the NHS provide an incentive either to join, or to remain in the service, or both,' the DDRB said.

The DDRB report recommended an increase in pay of 2% minumum for GP partners and 2% for salaried GPs. However, it also recommended an additional increase of 2% on top of this for both groups as a way of encouraging retention and recruitment.

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GPs to receive 2% pay rise in 2018/19

The DDRB said that if targets to increase the number of GPs were to be met it would require 'a combination of increasing the throughput from training, overseas recruitment, and improving the retention of existing GPs.'

However it highlighted that a number of factors, including increased demand, increased regulatory and admin burden, younger GPs being less likely to want to work as many sessions as their predecessors and falling pay, had combined to make a traditional GP career path 'less attractive.' The DDRB said this was concerning.

The DDRB also said that the government's overseas recruitment drive was 'unlikely to be helped by the uncertainty surrounding' Brexit and recent problems with obtaining visas.

'We recognise that many of the problems facing this part of our remit group are not necessarily resolved through pay alone,' the report said. 'However, we believe that if sufficient number of GPs are either to be recruited from overseas or encouraged to remain in the service longer than they otherwise would have done, a pay response is required now.

'Such a response needs to be significant and go beyond our recommended base increase for the pay remit group as a whole.'

GP pay

The report said that average gross earnings for both partners and salaried GPs were lower in 2015/16 than they had been in 2006/7. Average income for GP partners peaked in 2005/6 at just over £110,000, before falling to a low of £99,800 in 2013/14.

The DDRB said that althought it was hard to be certain of the true changes in earnings, because figures are based on headcount rather than hours worked, the average earnings of GP partners were 8% lower in 2015/16 than they had been a decade earlier.

Meanwhile, average income for salaried GPs in 2015/16 on a headcount basis was £55,800 – a drop of 1.4% on the previous year.

GP morale

The DDRB also pointed to evidence showing a record number of GPs were planning to leave frontline patient care in the next five years. Results from the same National GP Work Life Survey had also shown that overall job satisfaction among GPs in the last two years were the worst since 2001.

GPonline reported in June that the uptake of the GP retainer scheme was being dwarfed by the numbers quitting the NHS each month.

And, despite record number of GP trainees being recruited this year, the most recent workforce figures from NHS Digital showed that the number of full-time equivalent GPs in England fell by 1,340 between March 2016 and March 2018.

Despite the DDRB report, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock announced today that GPs would only receive the minimum recommended pay rise of 2% in 2018/19, backdated to April. He also said that following this year he wanted to seek 'multi-year deals in return for contract reforms for consultants and GPs'.

The BMA hit out at this year's deal. GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'For a decade GPs have seen their real terms pay cut by over 20%, resulting in many GPs leaving the profession and doctors not wanting to become GPs.

'For the new secretary of state to commit, only last week, to addressing the workforce crisis in general practice and raise hopes of investment in primary care, to now dash those hopes, will signal to dedicated GPs and their staff that they are not valued.'

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