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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 March 2006, 09:32 GMT 10:32 UK
Medics slam 'vindictive' pay rise
Doctor, paramedic and nurse with patient
NHS staff pay rises come into force on April 1
Senior doctors have said they have been "singled out" for a "vindictive" staged pay rise by the government.

They will receive a 1% pay rise in April and a further 1.2% increase in November.

Under the UK NHS pay awards, dentists will receive a 3% rise, nurses 2.5% and junior doctors 2.2% from April.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt admitted consultants would be disappointed, but that "financial balance" in the NHS was important.

The pay awards come amid growing concerns about job losses in the NHS because of large deficits run up by hospital trusts.

'Fair and affordable

More than 4,000 job losses have been announced at hospitals across England, with some managers blaming the pay deals agreed between professional bodies and the Department of Health in recent years for the financial crisis.

Consultants will be angry they are being singled out by being the only group to have their pay award staged
Dr Paul Miller, chair of British Medical Association's consultants committee

The rate of inflation currently stands at 2%.

The pay awards for NHS staff are usually awarded in February. They take effect from 1 April.

The government said it had accepted the independent pay review bodies' recommendations in full.

But staff groups said they were concerned that the Chancellor and the Health Secretary had asked the review bodies to keep pay rise levels low - with a rise of just 1% recommended for consultants.

The awards mean salaries will rise to:

  • 19,116 for a newly qualified nurse - equal to a newly qualified primary school teacher
  • A minimum of 20,747 for a newly qualified junior doctor, rising to a maximum of 30,433 with full overtime payments
  • A minimum of 69,991 for consultants from April, rising to 70,823 from November

Other NHS staff, including professions such as physiotherapists, receive a 2.5% increase.

The majority of GPs are not covered by the pay awards.

Mrs Hewitt said all the awards were "fair and affordable".

She added: "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 12 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."

John Rostill, chair of NHS Employers said: "Most employers will feel that these awards strike the right balance between affordability and the need to keep pay competitive."

'A political decision'

But the British Medical Association said it was astonished at the "vindictive and petty treatment of consultants" by awarding them a phased below inflation, pay rise.

We are determined to ensure that we return the NHS as a whole to financial balance over the next twelve months
Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt

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."

He told the BBC News website: "Consultants will be angry they are being singled out by being the only group to have their pay award staged.

"It is a political decision."

Dr Miller said consultants' pay had risen - but that was to reflect historic underpayment and changes in their work.

The British Dental Association said the 3% increase for high street dentists was "derisory" and would "fail to restore confidence in the future of NHS dentistry".

Mike Jackson, senior national health officer for Unison, said: "At last the long wait is over but NHS nurses and other health professionals will be disappointed with a 2.5% increase.

"By dithering over the announcement, staff will not be getting the increase in their pay packets in April when it's due."

Josie Irwin, head of employment for the Royal College of Nursing - which had asked for a "substantial" pay rise - said she was pleased the pay review body, which advises the government, had not listened to submissions from the Chancellor and the Health Secretary to cap rises at 2%.

"It upholds the integrity of the review body.

"Affordability obviously has to be taken into account. But that's different from being told what to do."

The Conservatives accused the government of failing to listen to the review body's recommendation not to stage a pay award without talking to the profession.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Hear why doctors are angry about the pay rise



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