HCSA President Dr Naru Narayanan urges members to use their voice in a consultation on pay and give a mandate for a public campaign.
Within a month the government’s pay award for hospital doctors will be made public. The outcome is expected to be far less than inflation, which stands at levels not seen in 40 years.
From rail workers to teachers and barristers, the past decade of pay suppression is meeting an immovable object in the form of price rises which are no longer expected to be transitory or short term.
The decision we face as a profession is whether we are willing to continue with “business as usual”.
Since 2010 the core salary of Consultants has been eroded by 30 percent against RPI inflation. For junior doctors, the figure is slightly lower but nevertheless above 20 percent, made worse by a four-year fixed pay deal which HCSA opposed.
We are already being urged again to tighten our belts and accept real-terms pay cuts. For years, the financial crisis was given as the justification. Now, we are urged to accept a further blow to living standards, this time because of inflation.
The economic arguments being deployed against higher public-sector pay awards are dubious to say the least and also risk helping push us into a period of stagflation and recession. But less-than-inflation pay awards have one certain outcome: a real cut to living standards for those who receive them.
In the private sector we are already seeing pay increases which reflect price rises, with PwC only this week announcing a 9 percent award for thousands of staff.
The justification they gave is that they need to remain competitive and attract the best employees. Well, if the health service wishes to continue to attract new and retain existing hospital doctors it, too, must be competitive.
I know that many of us are at a tipping point not just on pay but on the other factors which dictate our working lives. For older doctors, flawed pensions taxation continues to drive behaviour which threatens to strip an experienced layer from the NHS workforce.
Something has to give. And HCSA does not believe that it is beneficial to the NHS or our patients to lose more hospital doctors.
You, as HCSA members, will dictate our next steps. As a democratic organisation I am determined that HCSA will reflect your views.
I therefore appeal to all members to respond to the consultation on pay which has been circulated this week.
I would also urge you to express your support for HCSA to campaign publicly for higher pay for hospital doctors. Doing so will give us the mandate to take the necessary next steps on your behalf.