Letter to the health secretary, 21 March 2014
To the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Health
I am writing to place on record the deep sense of outrage felt by many doctors at the decision of the Department of Health not to implement the recommendation of the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration (DDRB) for a 1% uplift in basic pay.
A 1% uplift would still have represented a cut in real pay, given that inflation as measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) is in the region of 2% and Retail Price Index (RPI) inflation is closer to 3%. Pay settlements in the private sector were around 2.5% in 2013, and are expected to remain at similar levels in 2014.
Your Written Ministerial Statement on 13 March 2014 asserted that this 1% uplift was 'unaffordable' while doctors were also in receipt of incremental pay progression. However, the DDRB in its report argued that the pay drift arising from 'incremental pay scales, should not be offset against the annual award' as this 'would undermine the fundamental principle on which incremental pay scales are currently based.'
While constitutionally you are entitled to ignore the recommendation of an independent, rigorous and evidence-based approach to pay determination, it is ironic that you insist that doctors simultaneously set aside their own legal entitlement to incremental pay progression.
Indeed, your deliberate conflation of pay progression and cost-of-living uplift is particularly misplaced. Leaving aside the fact that a 1% uplift would in no way keep pace with the increases in the cost of living, incremental pay progression is designed to address a very different set of issues.
Pay progression is required to recognise learning and development in a role. Doctors gain more experience and responsibility over time and incremental progression arrangements for consultants, in particular, is a measure to control costs, building in a series of extended periods before they reach the full rate for the job.
Your colleagues in the Home Office, who have this year introduced a pay review body for police officers, made the point that pay review bodies 'go to great lengths to gain a detailed understanding of the group that they cover' and that the pay review body 'approach provides a more rounded, well reasoned approach to deciding pay'. Your failure, therefore, to take account of both the analysis and the recommendations of the DDRB is particularly frustrating.
I hope that you understand the depth of feeling among doctors on this matter and I would urge you to reconsider your decision.
BMA Chair of Council Mark Porter