NHS Pay Rises Announced, Pensions Consultation Begins

Nicky Broyd

July 22, 2019

Two significant announcements have been made affecting doctors' NHS pay. The Government has responded to the annual pay review body recommendations for England, while also starting a consultation on the NHS pensions crisis.

This Year's Pay Deal

The Government has responded to the latest recommendations from the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration (DDRB).

The increases will be backdated to April this year and include between:

  • £1940 and £2630 for consultants

  • £970 and £1820 for specialty doctors

  • £1360 and £2250 for associate specialists

The British Medical Association has criticised the pay announcement for not making up for more than a decade of low pay awards for doctors.

'Amazing Staff'

This latest statement on pay follows previous announcements for junior doctors and general practitioners.

In a statement on today's pay news, the Department for Health and Social Care said the 2.5% pay rise for all consultants and dentists is part of "the ambition to make the NHS the best place to work, as set out in the NHS Interim People Plan".

Secretary of State, Matt Hancock, said: "Our NHS would be nothing without the hard work and commitment of its amazing staff.

"So we are supporting tens of thousands of doctors and dentists with one of the biggest pay rises for over a decade ‒ in recognition of their 24/7 dedication and compassion towards patients."

'Years of Underpayment'

The BMA said this year's pay rise for doctors is "somewhat better than last year’s deal", which was not backdated.

In submissions to the pay review body the BMA said that in real terms there's been a pay cut for doctors since 2008 of up to:

  • 30% for consultants

  • 21% for junior doctors

  • 29% for GPs

BMA Consultants' Committee Chair, Dr Rob Harwood said in a statement: "It’s clear from today’s announcement that the Government has not recognised nor rewarded the work and commitment of some of our most experienced and senior doctors and the pay uplift does not provide any mechanism to address historic underpayments to doctors."

The BMA said that for specialty and associate specialist doctors in England to receive the full 3.5% recommendation, they have to agree a new contract. If they don’t sign, the award is 2.5%.

Dr Harwood continued: "In addition, there is no indication that there will be any increase to the value of the clinical excellence awards intended to recognise and reward those doctors who contribute most towards the delivery of safe and high quality care to patients, and to the continuous improvement of NHS services. In real terms, this drops the value of the pay award for consultants to 2.35%."

Pensions Consultation

Caps on pension contributions for higher earning doctors and consultants means many have stopped taking on extra work because the more they earn, the worse the effect on the tax on their pensions.

Last month, the Government promised a consultation on pensions flexibility for senior staff to try to address the issue.

The Department for Health and Social Care says its proposals are designed to allow doctors to still do extra work without concerns over increased tax bills.

The proposal is for a 50:50 option, allowing halving of pension contributions in return for halving the pension growth rate.

It is, in effect, also asking if anyone has any better ideas by seeking 'alternative solutions'.

Matt Hancock said he wanted doctors to know he's been listening "and I want to work with them to fix it for the sake of patients".

He continued: "We want to make it easier for our hardworking senior doctors to balance their workload, their pension pot and their tax bill ‒ with more flexibility, more choice, and less need to pay upfront.

"It’s vital any changes are based on real experiences and I urge all consultants, senior nurses and GPs to have their say."

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: "We welcome this new consultation, which shows a willingness and commitment from Government to reform the scheme, to address the impact of pension taxation on NHS staff, organisations and service delivery.

"It is especially welcome to see the Government is not only asking for feedback on their original proposal to introduce a 50:50 section for senior clinicians, but is actively seeking views on alternative solutions and proposals."

'Intolerable Dilemma'

The BMA responded saying it has repeatedly started that a 50:50 plan would not solve the pensions problem.

Dr Harwood, said: "This consultation does little other than add to the intolerable dilemma facing many doctors – a commitment to their patients put in jeopardy by these ridiculous taxes which are forcing doctors to effectively pay to go to work.

"Doctors need to be able to return to doing the additional work they had routinely undertaken in the past to ensure high quality, safe patient care. We believe an effective consultation should have explicitly included the option to scrap the annual allowance or tapering annual allowance. However, as it stands, the Government must recognise there needs to be a full range of scaled pension membership from 10:10 to 90:90, each with recycling of the residual employer contributions. A fully flexible approach like this would be cost neutral to the NHS, because the employer’s pension contributions being given up would be paid as taxable salary. Without recycling, a 50:50 approach would be a substantial pay cut for GPs and hospital doctors, and - with such an unattractive offer - almost certain to be set to fail.

"We wanted a consultation that included realistic options to bring an end to this ridiculous, but serious, crisis we are now facing. The BMA believes the only real solution is to scrap the annual or tapering allowances with immediate effect."

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