30/03/2006

Doctors slam 'vindictive' pay rise

The British Medical Association has slammed the government's decision to grant consultants a phased below-inflation pay rise.

All other NHS staff will receive above inflation pay rises except for doctors in plans announced by Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt on Thursday.

The BMA accused the government of being "mean-minded" and warned that the pay rise would "damage doctors' goodwill enormously".

Under the plans, nurses and other healthcare professionals will receive a 2.5% pay rise and junior doctors will receive a 2.2% rise from April 1.

Dentists will also receive a 3% rise and salaried dentists will receive a 2.4% increase.

However, senior doctors will receive only a 1% rise until November, when they will receive another 1.2% pay increase.

The pay rises will bring the pay of a newly qualified nurse to £19,116 - on a par with a newly qualified primary school teacher.

The pay increases for consultants will bring their pay to £70,823 in November.

Ms Hewitt said that the pay deals were "fair and affordable". She said: "The NHS is operating in a challenging financial environment and running a small deficit - less than 1% of its total budget. We are determined to ensure that we return the NHS as a whole to financial balance over the next twelve months.

"Therefore I have decided to stage the pay of consultants - those who have had the biggest earnings increases from NHS pay reform - by seven months.

"We understand consultants will be disappointed, but this works out that we are on average asking them to sacrifice less than £80 per month for seven months. The pay review recommendation will then be paid in full.

"Taken together, these decisions are both fair but affordable and they send a clear signal to the NHS that we are serious about the need to restore financial balance while we continue to improve patient care."

Dr Paul Miller, Chairman of the BMA Consultants' Committee said: "I cannot believe the government has been so mean-minded. This low pay rise will do very little to relieve NHS debt but will damage doctors' goodwill enormously.

"Doctors have worked tirelessly to meet government targets and deliver improvements in patient care, helping to bring waiting times down to record levels. Hospital consultants have huge and complex workloads. They strive to innovate whilst facing unprecedented demands on their time and an intensity of work, which is soaring.

"It is deplorable that the Doctors and Dentists Review Body recommendation has not been accepted by the government. This slap in the face is a betrayal of senior hospital doctors and will alienate the profession at a time when the NHS is under enormous pressure. It produces a saving of £20 million, this will do very little to ease the NHS debt crisis of around £900 million."

(KMcA)


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