Government should have done more to recognise huge efforts of doctors in England during Covid, says BMA

by BMA media office

Media release from the BMA

Location: UK
Published: Tuesday 21 July 2020

The BMA says today’s pay award for doctors in England should have been an opportunity for the Government to recognise that many doctors have put their lives at risk in recent months, treating patients with Covid-19.

Hospital consultants and staff grade, associate specialist and specialty doctors (SAS) doctors are to receive a pay uplift of 2.8 per cent, but Junior doctors and GPs will receive significantly less and will be restricted to their multi-year pay awards set last year. The BMA says this is grossly unfair and is calling on the Government in England to provide a more significant pay award to all doctors.

Each year the Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration Body (DDRB) is supposed to consider salaries for doctors and dentists working in the NHS and recommend, to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Health, and their equivalents in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, fair pay levels for doctors. In making those recommendations, the DDRB also takes evidence from the BMA.

BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said:

“This year tens of thousands of healthcare workers have faced probably the most stressful period of their careers, with many putting their lives at risk and worse but they’re not being recognised for it.

“There is still no clear strategy to deal with the enormous backlog of surgery and other planned care or how doctors will take leave and be encouraged to rest. The demands on doctors will continue for months as they play a leading role in moving the NHS from current models of COVID-19 focussed care to the restoration of other vital healthcare services. And whilst the economic climate is uncertain, if ever there was a time for a pay uplift to recognise the work done by all doctors, along with years of underpayment, it is now.”

In a letter to the Chair of the DDRB, in May of this year, the BMA made clear the that the extraordinary efforts of doctors to support the national effort in tackling Covid-19 must be taken into account in the DDRB’s recommendations on pay to the UK and devolved governments. During this time doctors worked without any national recognition in terms of pay and reward.

The chair of the BMA consultants committee, Dr Rob Harwood, said:

“For weeks the public has shown its appreciation for NHS and social care staff; the DDRB should have done the same and recommended that doctors were given the remuneration they so rightly deserve. Instead doctors have been given a metaphorical slap in the face.

“The Government has put billions of pounds into business and industry to help keep the economy afloat during this pandemic but today it has shown it is not willing to do the same for those on the frontline of this pandemic. This uplift means, for many, their take home pay rises between just £15 and £24 per week and doctors quite rightly should be bitterly disappointed and may even be insulted by today’s news particularly given the sacrifices they have made.

 “Many of the most highly skilled doctors in the NHS have seen their pay whittled away year on year with minimal or no pay rises – with many having suffered a 30% real-terms pay cut over the last decade. This was the perfect opportunity for the Government to show it values our doctors and give them the pay they deserve.”

For junior doctors1 and GPs2 in England, contractual agreements made last year included fixed levels of increases for this year. However, these agreements did not take into account the effort of doctors responding to the unforeseen challenges that they have been presented with as a result of COVID -19.


Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union and professional association 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.

  1. As part of the 2018 review of the junior doctor contract in England, trainees received a guaranteed pay uplift of 2% per year for the next four years, alongside other financial investment into contractual changes.
  2. While pay for sessional GPs is decided by the DDRB, the five-year contract deal for general practice in England from 2019 has agreed what the funding allocation will be. This allowed for an uplift to practice staff pay and expenses in line with predicted inflation.