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This year marks a new low in the apparent campaign by three of our four UK governments to undermine the DDRB (Doctors and Dentists Review Body).
The deal with the DDRB is supposed to be this: the representatives of the healthcare unions submit evidence in areas such as workload, recruitment and retention. The Government submits its own evidence about workforce and affordability. Then the DDRB comes to an independent view.
That’s the only reason the DDRB exists, and what it has been charged with doing for 50 years.
Previous DDRB recommendations have been ignored, or watered down, but the reason this year is a new low is because the governments in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have successfully persuaded it to not even hear evidence for any salaried doctors, except salaried GPs.
This has a bearing on our patients too. The DDRB can have a positive influence in ensuring there are enough doctors, with the right level of experience, to deliver high-quality patient care. That is why in previous years it has often targeted pay increases to help recruitment and retention.
So the governments have prevented it not only from carrying out its responsibilities towards doctors, but also restricted its ability to benefit patients.
The DDRB didn’t like the situation in which it was put. It’s not difficult to sense its frustration even in the terse, measured language it deploys. It was put in a ‘dilemma’, it says, adding: ‘We very much hope we are not placed in this situation in future years.’
Its dilemma was between the BMA – which, to put it in a nutshell, asked the DDRB to do its job, and the three UK governments that sought to prevent it from doing so.
The DDRB does assert its right to set out its views or make pay recommendations whether the parties that submit evidence want them to or not, but that’s cold comfort for this year.
The two-year pay award announced in England last year offered a 1 per cent non-consolidated increase for doctors at the top of their pay scale for each of the two years. Doctors who are eligible to receive increments get no further increase.
The news for GPs is a little more encouraging. A recommendation of 1 per cent for both independent contract and salaried GPs across the UK is an improvement on last year.
However the Government in England has calculated that a 1.16 per cent increase in GMS contract payments will be enough to enable the pay increase. It is very unlikely this will be enough, given that practices face unavoidable expenses to make up for years of under-funding. We will be contacting members shortly with more information about what this will mean for them.
The DDRB says the Welsh government is hoping to negotiate with the BMA and British Dental Association as to how funding for hospital doctors’ pay would be distributed. Northern Ireland had yet to make plans.
The Scottish Government has taken a different approach. There will be a 1 per cent increase for hospital doctors - an actual increase that is, rather than an unconsolidated one. It has also committed to increasing GP pay by 1 per cent, although it will need to ensure enough of a gross uplift to enable this.
To think, we have, according to research from the Commonwealth Fund, the best and most efficient healthcare system in the world. And our reward is a sustained, year-on-year raid on pay, combined with a smothering of the pay body.
Although the situation is better in Scotland, in no part of the UK will doctors’ pay be worth as much as it was this year. We are being made to pay for the running of the economy and a fear of investment in public services.
Even worse, this fear threatens the future ability of the NHS to care for the population, as cuts continue around us.
Our new campaign calls for no more games with the health service. As part of this, the governments in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which have refused to even address longstanding problems with morale and recruitment, must stop playing games with doctors’ pay.
2015 pay announcement - Northern Ireland and Wales
other than writing letters of indignation about how the government ignore an independent review body whilst accepting their own one, what is the BMA doing about it?
have they considered that the agreement to forego industrial action in return for an independent review body has been broken?
have they considered refusing to engage with the DDRB until they show they are independent from government and not the publishing arm of the Department of Health for the governments pay decisions?