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NHS Employers recommends extending doctors’ pay freeze

Authors: Caroline White 

Publication date:  09 Oct 2012


NHS Employers has recommended that the Doctors and Dentists Review Body (DDRB) should extend the freeze on doctors’ pay for another year, a move that has angered the BMA.

The association, which will be submitting its own evidence to the DDRB later this week, said that this was yet another blow to doctors’ morale in the wake of changes to their pensions.

In its annual submission to the DDRB, which will issue its recommendations early next year, NHS Employers said that extending the pay freeze would help organisations maintain the quality of NHS patients’ care while plugging the “unprecedented” financial shortfall and keeping job losses to a minimum.

It maintained that further pay increases from April 2013 were neither necessary nor affordable.

The remuneration package for doctors remained “highly competitive” when pension and non-pay benefits were taken into account, NHS Employers said. These benefits have acted as a “valuable retention and recruitment tool” for NHS organisations, it argued.

And despite the current two year pay freeze, which began in April 2011, the earnings of individual doctors have still risen between 3% and 8% a year as a result of incremental pay increases and progression through training, it claimed.

This meant that a new consultant appointed in 2010 on a salary of £81 954 a year would today be earning £89 652—an increase of £7698 or 9%—making the need for local trusts to save £20bn by 2015 all the more difficult, it suggested.

Furthermore, it added, there was no evidence that doctors’ satisfaction levels were low—if anything they were higher than those of other NHS staff, it said. And the impending oversupply of medical graduates, together with the need for more doctors to go into primary care, precluded the need for a further rise in hospital doctors’ pay scales.

Employers also wanted to see pay progression linked to performance rather than to the number of years a doctor had worked, it said.

“The simple truth is that NHS organisations cannot afford an unnecessary increase in doctors’ pay rates over the next year without it impacting on patient care,” said Dean Royles, director of NHS Employers.

Employers understood the frustration felt by many doctors about freezing pay scales, he said, but he added, “We know they recognise the financial challenges facing all organisations.”

And he warned that if pay was increased, “we risk serious consequences for the sustainability of some NHS services . . . and a greater risk of NHS job losses.”

But the chairman of the BMA’s governing council, Mark Porter, refuted the claim that a further pay freeze would ensure that the quality of care was maintained. This didn’t “stand up to scrutiny,” he argued.

“There is already a major problem with morale, with doctors at the frontline dealing with huge efficiency savings and wholesale NHS reorganisation,” he said.

“Maintaining and improving care in the face of probably the biggest ever financial challenge for the NHS requires a more strategic response than just continuing to cut the terms and conditions of its staff.”

On top of a pay freeze doctors had also had to stump up more for their pensions in return for fewer benefits, he added.

Caroline White BMJ

 cwhite@bmj.com

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