The BMA’s relationship with the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration is a longstanding one.
At 83 years old, retired consultant paediatrician Jim Appleyard related his memories of negotiating with the DDRB way back in 1969 as the then BMA junior doctors committee chair, to the 2019 annual representative meeting.
The following year famously saw the entire DDRB resign after the Government opted to implement only partially their recommendations on pay.
Fast forward half a century, and this fierce display of independence would likely seem inconceivable to many of today’s medical workforce.
Since 2008, doctors have experienced the largest drop in take-home earnings of all professions subject to a pay review body and a 22.5 per cent real-terms pay cut in take-home pay over the past eight years.
On five occasions since 2005, the Government has accepted DDRB recommendations.
On three of those occasions the 1 per cent increase was in line with existing government policy on public sector pay and on two occasions the review body made no recommendations on pay, both on occasions when the Government had instituted a pay freeze.
‘The DDRB clearly unfit for purpose,’ said GP trainee Euan Strachan-Orr.
‘Not only should we have no confidence in the DDRB, we need to lobby for a new, transparent and independent system to review our pay just as the DDRB was when established in the 1960s.’
Attitudes to the review body do appear to be hardening.
This year the consultants pledged that they would withdraw from the review body should it make another ‘insulting’ recommendation on pay.
Meanwhile, the ARM saw an overwhelming endorsement of a vote of no confidence in the DDRB and a call for it to be replaced with a new, independent body.
In addition, a more than two-thirds majority of doctors now support the prospect of balloting for industrial action should the next pay award be regarded as inadequate.
Despite the general feeling of discontent, some including Dr Appleyard and BMA medical academic staff committee co-chair Peter Dangerfield urged caution over adopting an overly aggressive stance to the review body.
Professor Dangerfield said that he accepted the DDRB’s pay recommendations had been ‘paltry’ for many years, but that ‘doing away’ with the review body in its existing form would likely have severe implications for medical academics, who would lose their connection to NHS pay awards as a result.
Former BMA junior doctors committee chair Peter Campbell, however, said that addressing derisory pay went to the heart of the systemic staffing and recruitment problems blighting the NHS.
‘The quality of workforce data on junior doctors is terrible,’ he said. ‘But I see on a daily basis the photos of UK-trained graduates around the world; Australia, New Zealand South America – anywhere but the UK.
‘Over 20 per cent pay cut over a decade, loss of accommodation and benefits, and the consultant workforce paying to work, GPs suffocated by bureaucracy and bullying and harassment across the profession.
‘A pay rise won’t fix all of these problems but improving recruitment and retention by improving our pay is a required step and the start of that process.’
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