THE BRITISH MEDICAL ASSOCIATION has published a critical report which details a litany of instances of meddling and interference by the UK Government into the doctors’ and dentists’ pay review body, the DDRB. The report concludes that the NHS staffing crisis cannot be resolved without wholesale reform of the pay review body. 

The UK Government has repeatedly said that its hands are tied by the pay review process when it comes to deciding doctors’ pay. Yet the BMA’s report lays bare how rather than treating it as independent, the Government has interfered with every step of the pay review process for over a decade.

One of the most outrageous acts of interference has been the Government’s remit letters to the pay review body. The BMA report finds these have been used to impose pay freezes and caps, and to constrain the DDRB’s recommendations so that they fall within the Government’s ‘affordability targets’. The report argues this is not legitimate grounds to restrict an independent pay review body, whose purpose should be to ensure that pay awards recognise the need to motivate, recruit and retain staff and ensure their pay keeps track with the cost of living.

Following year after year of pay cuts, junior doctors and consultants in England and Wales have withdrawn from the pay review process this year. The BMA will be considering the question of full withdrawal from the DDRB at its January council meeting.

Dr Vishal Sharma, chair of the BMA consultants committee, said: “This report exposes the supposed independence of the pay review body as a sham designed to provide government with deniability whilst it directly meddles with pay outcomes. Simply going back to the DDRB to ask for another recommendation on pay will not solve anything. For more than a decade the pay review process has been constantly interfered with by the Government, resulting in year after year of pay cuts for doctors.

“Ministers cannot continue to argue that the DDRB is independent while doctors’ pay falls off a cliff and we have thousands of medical vacancies. If the pay review process is to have any hope in restoring the confidence of doctors and remedying the dire staffing shortages that we face across the NHS then it must be urgently reformed in line with its founding principles.”

The report and its calls for reform are fully endorsed by the British Dental Association and represents the joint views of the medical and dental professions. BDA Chair Eddie Crouch added: “Both dentists and medics bear the scars of a failed pay review process. Savage cuts to real incomes are the result of a system that’s doled out pay caps and pay freezes to order. The NHS will keep haemorrhaging talent until we see a body with real independence.”

The report concludes that unless the pay review process is reformed there will be growing discontent and a worsening of the already-dangerous workforce shortages that the NHS faces as staff become more and more disillusioned about the fairness of their pay awards. This poses an increasing risk to patients and the care they receive, at a time when the NHS is already in crisis and struggling to cope.

* Read: Report into the Failings of the Pay Review Process for Doctors and Dentists here.

* Source: British Medical Association