Pay rise fails to reward doctors’ efforts, says BMA

by Tim Tonkin

The sacrifices made by the medical profession during COVID-19 have not been recognised in the latest pay awards to doctors in England, the BMA has warned.

Location: England
Published: Tuesday 21 July 2020
Busy hospital with blurred figures moving through a reception area

The association has said salary uplifts as set out by the Doctors and Dentists Review Body and approved by the Government, do not sufficiently acknowledge the dedication shown and hardship endured by doctors during the pandemic.

The new settlements announced today 21 July will see consultants and staff, associate specialist and specialty doctors receive a pay uplift of 2.8 per cent backdated to April this year. It will not apply to clinical excellence awards.

Junior doctors and GPs, however, will continue to receive contractually agreed pay increases, without any additional uplift to reflect the unprecedented circumstances under which they have had to work during the pandemic.

The decision contrasts with that of the Welsh and Scottish governments, both of which announced that doctors from all branches of practice would be receiving the 2.8 per cent uplift, a move that was welcomed by the chairs of BMA Scotland and Wales respectively as an acknowledgement of doctors’ efforts during the pandemic.


Portrait of BMA chair Chaand Nagpaul NAGPAUL: 'Many putting their lives at risk but they’re not being recognised for it'

BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul wrote to the DDRB in May outlining how its recommendations on pay needed to take into account the extraordinary efforts displayed by doctors in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said the failure to reflect these efforts in the recent pay announcement risked doctors feeling under-appreciated and urged the Government to provide a more significant pay award to all doctors.

He 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 COVID-19-focused care to the restoration of other vital healthcare services.

He added: ‘While 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.’

‘Bitterly disappointed’

The DDRB reviews and makes recommendations on the pay of doctors and dentists in all four UK home nations each year, and bases its decisions on evidence submitted by a range of organisations including the BMA.

The association’s consultants committee chair Rob Harwood said many doctors would feel ‘bitterly disappointed’ and even insulted by the latest pay recommendations.

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

‘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 per cent 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.’