Consultants call on Government to restore original pay review process

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Last reviewed: 3 September 2021

Consultants have called on the Government to restore the doctors pay review process in England to its original purpose, as a new BMA survey shows more than 80% of members believe this year’s pay below-inflationary uplift to be inadequate or completely unacceptable.

As a result, consultants in England will not be engaging with the Doctors’ and Dentists Remuneration Body (DDRB) process this year and are instead seeking urgent negotiations with the Government and the DDRB to reform the pay setting process. 

The DDRB was originally formed as an independent body with the aim to avoid disputes between Government and the profession, and to give doctors assurance that their standard of living would not be depressed by ‘arbitrary Government action’. 

Following a series of Government imposed pay freezes and pay caps, estimated take-home pay of the average consultant has fallen by more than 28% in real terms since 2008. This demonstrates that in its current form, the pay setting process is no longer fit for purpose, which is why the BMA is demanding that it is reformed in line with the original purpose and principles of the pay review body.

The decision to withdraw and seek restitution of the pay review body comes as the BMA's consultation over consultant pay shows more than 80% of consultants believe the award is either inadequate or completely unacceptable1, with more than 70% suffering a decline in morale as a result.A staggering 91% believe that it shows that the Government does not value the work consultants have done or will be expected to do.3 

It is essential that the Government commits to meaningful reform of the pay review process so doctors can once again be reassured that their pay awards will be dealt with fairly, and any disputes between the Government and the profession can be avoided. The BMA Consultants Committee will be discussing the results of the survey and next steps in the coming weeks.

Commenting, BMA consultants committee chair Dr Vishal Sharma said: 

“These survey findings should be a wake-up call to Ministers that this year’s pay round will cause lasting damage to morale across the profession in England. The profession has now lost confidence in the fairness and independence of the pay setting process.

"At a time when the NHS has been under maximum strain and with the expectation that consultants will now step up to tackle the backlog of delayed treatment caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with the high levels of inflation, consultants view the Government’s pay award as another real-term pay cut.

"This survey shows that our members no longer have any confidence in this Government to recognise the incredible efforts they have made and will continue to make, including the hours and days spent on Covid wards, putting their lives at risk, away from their families.

"Consultants have lost all trust in the review body, their decisions, and the Government’s management of a process that is no longing offering evidence-based, independent pay recommendations. 

“Changing the way pay is awarded and restoring the original remit and arrangements for the pay review body is about more than just fair pay; it is about securing the future consultant workforce at a time that the NHS can ill afford to lose any more doctors."


Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

- Please find a letter from Dr Sharma to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on this, here.

When asked, “What are your feelings regarding this year's 3% pay award for consultants?”
4.23% answered ‘Completely acceptable’
12.64% answered ‘Adequate’
49.03% answered ‘Inadequate’
32.96% answered ‘Completely unacceptable’
1.13% answered ‘Don’t know’

When asked, “How, if at all, do you feel that your morale has been impacted as a result of this year's pay award of 3% for consultants?”
0.47% answered ‘Significantly increased morale’
1.18% answered ‘Increased morale’
27.03% answered ‘No change to morale’
36.21% answered ‘Decreased morale’
34.43% answered ‘Significantly decreased morale’
0.69% answered ‘Don’t know’

When asked, “How do you feel that this year's pay award of 3% for consultants demonstrates how the Government values your work?”
1.06% answered ‘I feel that the Government's pay award values my work a great deal’
5.23% answered ‘I feel that the Government's pay award values my work’
29.18% answered ‘I feel that the Government's pay award values my work a little’
62.30% answered ‘I feel that the Government's pay award does not value my work at all’
2.22% answered ‘Don’t know’