The government confirmed late on 21 July that it would award a 3% pay increase to NHS staff including salaried GPs and other primary care staff for the 2021/22 financial year, backdated to April.
The uplift represents a significant U-turn from the government’s stance earlier this year, when it proposed a 1% rise described as a kick in the teeth by health unions.
However, the 3% increase announced this week both excludes GP partners from any additional pay increase and could force them to reduce their own pay to award the rise to salaried GPs and other practice staff – because the government has frozen multi-year pay agreements out of the new uplift.
Under the five-year GP contract deal that began in 2019, general practice is in line for a 2.1% funding increase in 2021/22. GP leaders have warned that if GP funding is not increased further to match the 3% rise, partners at practices awarding the uplift to salaried GPs and other staff will be forced to cover the costs out of their own pockets.
GP leaders warned that the impact on GP partnerships could be devastating at a time when the full-time equivalent (FTE) GP partner workforce is already in freefall, down 5% in the year to March 2021 and by more than a fifth over the past five years. One senior GP wrote on Twitter: ‘RIP partnerships.’
Yes it’s terrible that juniors are not getting a pay rise, but even worse that GP partners will receive a pay cut if their global sum is not increased to mitigate against the increased wages for their employees.
RIP GP Partnership
— Shaba Nabi (@ShabaNabi) July 21, 2021
BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘It’s shameful for the government to sell this as a pay rise for doctors, while asking other doctors to foot the bill.
‘Salaried GPs will want to be paid the full uplift announced today; GP partners will be thinking about where that money will now have to come from and what cuts they will have to make to afford it.
‘All GPs have gone above and beyond during the pandemic – yet with this announcement the government attempts to divide the profession by not giving partners the funding needed to pay the 3% uplift. It’s critical that the government provides this additional money to practices now so they can do this.
‘Partners will feel that their hard work and sacrifices of the last 18 months – when they have moved heaven and earth to transform services as well as leading the vaccination campaign – have been completely ignored. They will yet again feel undervalued by ministers, further plunging levels of morale when many are at rock bottom.’
BMA sessional committee chair Dr Ben Molyneux said the 3% award was a ‘good start’ but fell short of the reduction in real-terms pay for GPs in recent years and came with ‘no mention’ of how GP partners could afford it.
Salaried GPs to get 3% uplift from DDRB. A good start, but doesn’t cover the 25% real terms pay cut from the last decade, and there is no mention of how GP partners will afford to pay for it unless it’s meant to come out of their pockets. Oh, and partners don’t get 3% either!
— Ben Molyneux (@DrBenMolyneux) July 21, 2021
For the wider medical profession, the BMA said the 3% award fell short of what was required. BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘It is disappointing that today’s announcement of a 3% pay uplift for doctors in England does not adequately recognise the extraordinary contribution of doctors working in the most challenging period in their professional lives.
‘Doctors have risked their health, and some have even lost their lives as they have worked to treat patients and protect the nation against a deadly virus. Scores of doctors have not taken annual leave and have worked extra hours without pay as they served the nation. Now they face a gruelling year ahead with millions of patients on waiting lists, and the country in the midst of another COVID-19 wave.
‘Our members have been left exhausted, burned out and on the verge of physical and mental breaking point by the past 18 months. Junior doctors and GPs on multi-year pay deals in England have given just as much of themselves as all doctors to care for their patients – and yet have been callously disregarded in this pay award and will receive less than their peers. All doctors, including those on multi-year pay deals, have given the same care to their patients. The government should now ensure they are all given the same fair pay uplift and it is something we will be calling upon government to review and think again in the coming days.’
Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘NHS staff are rightly receiving a pay rise this year despite the wider public sector pay pause, in recognition of their extraordinary efforts. We asked the independent pay review bodies for their recommendations and I’m pleased to accept them in full, with a 3% pay rise for all staff in scope, from doctors and nurses to paramedics and porters.
‘We will back the NHS as we focus our efforts on getting through this pandemic and tackling the backlog of other health problems that has built up. I will continue to do everything I can to support all those in our health service who are working so tirelessly to care for patients.’