Letter: Doctors' pay

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article ("Top jobs with tough responsibilities merit top salaries", 18 September) quotes me selectively and pejoratively before going into attack.

The Doctors' and Dentists' Review Body was established with a clear remit to make recommendations on doctors' pay levels by reference to comparator professions.

The Independent may regard comparability as an old-fashioned, Seventies concept. The British Medical Association does not. It has led to fair and justifiable increases for the Prime Minister and his colleagues.

One can only assume that the Treasury did not seek to constrain the Senior Salaries Review Body with the same vigour that it is now attempting to impose on the Review Bodies governing doctors, nurses and teachers.

I object to the "double-whammy" whereby governments seek to constrain the independent review bodies before they start their deliberations as well as reserving the right to stage or vary the awards after the review body has reported.

Of course I recognise that any increase in the salary bill for cabinet ministers, no matter how great, would have an imperceptible effect upon the public purse. Surely this does not mean that medical staff should never be remunerated fairly for the increasingly heavy and complex responsibilities they bear.

I also object very strongly to the implication that doctors or the BMA bore any responsibility for the winters of discontent of the Seventies. Doctors have remained unswerving in their commitment to patients. The huge increases in the number of patients treated by the NHS have been achieved by sharply increasing the intensity, complexity and volume of work undertaken by doctors and other health service staff. It has been achieved, as Frank Dobson, the Secretary of State for Health, himself acknowledges, by dedicated staff working "flat out".

Dr A W MACARA

Chairman of Council

British Medical Association

London WC1

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