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Doctors demand end to pay freeze

Doctors leaders have slammed suggestions that an NHS pay freeze should continue in the interests of maintaining care quality.

In its evidence to the DDRB (Doctors and Dentists Review Body), NHS Employers says there should be no increase in pay scales for NHS doctors in 2013/14, to ‘help organisations maintain the quality of NHS patient care, tackle an unprecedented savings challenge and minimise job losses’.

It says management does not believe pay rises are ‘necessary or affordable’.

But the BMA declared that the argument simply did not stand up to scrutiny.

BMA council chair Mark Porter said: ‘There is already a major problem with morale, with doctors dealing with huge efficiency savings and wholesale NHS reorganisation.

‘Maintaining and improving care in the face of probably the biggest ever financial challenge for the NHS requires a more strategic response than just continuing to cut the terms and conditions of staff.’

Real-terms pay cuts

He added: ‘The focus should be on employers working with doctors and other NHS staff to find more efficient ways of delivering care.’

Dr Porter pointed out that pay for all doctors had been dropping in real terms as a result of years of pay freezes and below-inflation pay rises.

He added: ‘On top of this, all doctors have just seen more taken out of their pay to fund higher pension contributions while the value of their pension benefits is being cut, with further contribution increases due to follow.’

NHS Employers claims NHS organisations say the unnecessary cost of increasing doctors’ pay would divert money away from the delivery of patient services.

It also says doctors’ pay has continued to rise by up to 8 per cent a year as a result of incremental pay increases and progression through training, and this has made the challenge of finding efficiency savings all the more difficult.

In 2011, the BMA played a key role in successfully defeating an NHS Employers move to freeze pay increments for all NHS staff for two years.

Push for performance-related pay

NHS Employers also wants to see pay progression linked to performance, rather than to the number of years’ service.

The BMA pointed out that annual pay progression for newly appointed consultants ceased after four years of service, and that subsequent pay increases only occurred every five years. Furthermore, all pay progression is subject to consultants meeting a number of criteria.

NHS Employers director Dean Royles said: ‘We understand the frustration felt by many doctors about freezing pay scales, but we know they recognise the financial challenges facing all organisations.

‘If we do increase pay, we risk serious consequences for the sustainability of some NHS services and their responsiveness to local needs. It will mean less investment for patient services and a greater risk of NHS job losses.’

The DDRB takes evidence on pay from a range of organisations, including the BMA, NHS Employers and the UK health departments, before making a recommendation on any increase to the government. The BMA will be publishing its evidence to the DDRB next week.