NHS pay rise ‘no cause for celebration’

BMA says announcement only first step to fixing years of unacceptable pay awards

Tuesday 27th August 2019

Some doctors in Scotland will still endure a real-terms pay cut despite the Scottish Government announcing a 2.5% pay increase, the largest professional body for medics in Scotland has warned, as it said the rise was ‘no cause for celebration’.

“This announcement must be viewed in the context that doctors have endured years of real terms cuts to their pay in Scotland, with year after year of unacceptable pay awards seriously eroding morale”, says Lewis Morrison, British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland chair.

“This has come at the same time as the job itself has got harder and more demanding, as doctors deal with excessive workloads due to spiralling demand and covering for growing and often underreported vacancies.

“Today’s announcement is hopefully a first step in addressing the lasting impact this has had. For example, last year many senior doctors were singled out for an uplift which was amongst the lowest in the public sector.

“As a result, we made it clear that the absolute least Scottish Government had to do this year was address this and implement the recommendations of the pay review body in full for all doctors – including for these senior doctors.

“The fact that the Scottish Government has listened to the BMA and this year broken with public sector pay policy…demonstrates greater and encouraging recognition of their huge contribution to frontline care.

“We lobbied hard for this and we don’t underestimate its significance within tight public sector spending constraints. It does provide some indication that we may be taking the first steps on the long path to restoring trust and morale.

“However, by failing to listen to the DDRB’s call for an additional 1% for SAS doctors and uplifts for consultant discretionary points and distinction awards, the Scottish Government are giving a message that there is still some way to go to fully value doctors – or the challenging working conditions they face.

“Hence our acknowledgement of the value of the general pay award is tempered somewhat by the failure to properly reward the achievement, commitment and excellence that the Scottish Government say they strive for from the NHS. 

“So, we regard a 2.5% uplift as just a reasonable start and certainly not a cause for celebration. It is only just higher than the CPI measure of inflation, and measured against RPI – which is currently at 2.8% - it remains a real terms pay cut.”

 

Earlier this month the BMA warned that unexpected pension tax bills were having a “significant” effect on patient care, and called for urgent action from the Scottish Government, similar to reforms announced by the UK Government, to address pension tax bills that had financially penalised doctors to such an extent that some have effectively been “paying to go to work”.

 

Dr Morrison continued: “When added to current unfair and punitive pensions tax rules imposed by the UK Government and the Scottish Government’s higher rate of income tax, many doctors won’t see any take home pay rise at all.

“On that basis it won't make major inroads into improving the morale of the profession as a whole. To do that, we must have a concerted long-term action plan to make becoming and remaining a doctor in Scotland an attractive career choice once again.

“It's not just about pay, and needs action on all areas of recruitment and retention. But at its heart, doctors, and aspiring doctors, need to feel truly valued and that includes a genuine reversal of many years of pay erosion.”