Public Sector Salaries: No extra cash to fund increase for doctors: Health Service

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The Independent Online
THE Government yesterday approved 3 per cent pay rises from April for half a million doctors, dentists, nurses and professions allied to medicine, but provided no extra cash to fund them, writes Nicholas Timmins.

At the same time, a big shift next year towards local and performance-related pay for all NHS staff was signalled by Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health - suggesting that the days of the review bodies which recommend the nurses' and doctors' pay nationally may be numbered.

The British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing reacted with alarm to that possibility, while NHS finance directors said the service faced a 'challenging' time with the 3 per cent pay rise, when NHS efficiency gains were expected to be 2.25 per cent.

Health authorities warned it would 'eat into' the cash increase they have been given, while Dr Sandy Macara, chairman of council of the BMA, said: 'We do not believe the productivity gains which are expected to fund this award will be achieved without adversely affecting patient care.' Nurses' leaders condemned the rises, worth about pounds 200 a year for a student nurse and pounds 500 for a ward sister, as too small.

Mrs Bottomley welcomed support from the review bodies for a marked shift next year towards local pay bargaining, which ministers are determined to drive through.

Despite resistance to the idea from the review bodies in earlier years, they yesterday acknowledged it had to come. The doctors' pay review body said it was 'an inevitable development of the NHS internal market', while the nurses' review body said pay arrangements were 'in transition' and that by next year it expected to see 'a framework established for effective local pay determination'.

The BMA said that it remained fully committed to the principle of an independent review body producing national pay rates, and that it was 'deeply sceptical' about locally determined performance-related pay.

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