Doctors' pay should be frozen again, employers say

Doctors on a ward
Image caption Doctors' leaders say medics are on the 'front line' of the NHS

Doctors' pay should be frozen for the third year in a row, the body NHS Employers says.

NHS Employers said extending the freeze would free up money to maintain patient care and minimise job losses.

Its submission to the Doctors and Dentists Review Body (DDRB) added that an increase in pay next April was neither "necessary or affordable".

But doctors' leaders said morale was low - and medics across the board had seen their earnings cut.

A two-year public sector pay freeze comes to an end in April 2013.

The DDRB will make its recommendations to the governments of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in February or March.

Last week, the King's Fund think-tank said an average staff pay increase of 1% would add £400m to £500m to NHS expenditure.

The health service has to make £20bn in efficiency savings by 2015,

NHS Employers says doctors' remuneration package remains "highly competitive", when pensions and other benefits are taken into account.

And it adds most doctors will see their earnings rise between 3-8% each year through incremental pay increases and progression through training.

'Financial challenge'

Dean Royles, director of NHS Employers, said: "The simple truth is that NHS organisations cannot afford an unnecessary increase in doctors' pay rates over the next year without it impacting on patient care.

"Most doctors in the NHS already benefit from annual incremental pay increases and pay progression through training.

"Any additional increase is unaffordable for the NHS."

But Dr Mark Porter, chair of the British Medical Association's council, said: "The argument that continuing the freeze on doctors' pay will help NHS employers maintain quality of care simply does not stand up to scrutiny.

"There is already a major problem with morale, with doctors at the front line 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 its staff."

He added: "Junior doctors' take-home pay is dropping, consultants' pay has been frozen since 2009, and the latest earnings figures for GPs show that their net income continues to fall.

"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.

The BMA is to publish its evidence to the review body next week.

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