‘There can be no return to wage restraint’ after Covid-19, HCSA warns

HCSA has warned against any return to national pay restraint for NHS doctors currently working on the front lines to beat the Covid-19 crisis.

Returning to “business as usual” when this period is finally declared over will be a huge challenge, HCSA President Dr Claudia Paoloni told an oral hearing of the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration (DDRB).

“The pandemic will have a profound impact on the medical profession,” she cautioned.

“Any return to pay restraint would risk completely destabilising an already fragile workforce.”

Staff are already working and will continue to work in extremis, facing situations and levels of pressure that they have never seen before, the DDRB panel were told.

HCSA’s delegation made clear that it would be important to recognise that the situation that we left behind was still a system that was overstretched and one in which trust has been eroded.

Addressing the body via videoconference as one of the NHS bodies and recognised trade unions involved in the pay review process, HCSA also used the meeting to reinforce the key aspects of its written evidence.

This included:

  • Expressing serious concerns about junior doctors receiving a pay uplift of just 2 percent, when other grades received 2.5 percent.
  • The impact of the long-term erosion of hospital doctor pay, which was accelerated by pay restraint in 2008.
  • The need for the DDRB to “be bold,” particularly in addressing Government failure to implement recommendations if it is to regain the confidence of the medical profession.
  • The need to end the squeeze on Supporting Professional Activity if consultants are to contribute to improving productivity.
  • Reiterating the call for a review into the ethnicity pay gap in medicine.

Dr Paoloni said: “NHS staff are working in extraordinary circumstances, longer hours and at considerable risk. It is important to emphasise that this situation will have a profound and lasting impact on the medical profession.

“Before the pandemic began, we were already facing a vacancies crisis and worryingly low levels of morale. We cannot go back to business as usual and any attempt to use the crisis to attack terms and conditions would have catastrophic impact.”

Among its key recommendations, HCSA’s 2020-21 DDRB submission calls for:

  • A base rise of 4.1 percent, which represents RPI (November 2019), plus 1.9 percent to begin to address historic erosion of pay.
  • Clinical Excellence Awards to increase at the same rate, to avoid a reduction in the overall pay envelope by sleight of hand.
  • An additional 1 percent for SAS doctors, to make up for the shortfall between the DDRB’s 2019 recommendation and the government award.
  • An additional 1.5 percent for Doctors in Training consisting of 0.5 percent to make up for the shortfall between the DDRB’s 2019 recommendation and the government award, and 1 percent to address the historic devaluation of the junior doctor grades.
  • The DDRB to issue a robust response to the government’s failure to implement its recommendations in full.
  • The DDRB to make a recommendation to government for a return to the contractually agreed position of 2.5 SPAs.
  • A review into the ethnicity pay gap in medicine.