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Doctors and dentists unite on pay review process that's unfit for purpose

Doctor and dentist leaders have set out a plan to restore independence to a broken pay review process that is driving talent out of the NHS.

The new British Medical Association report and its calls for reform are fully endorsed by the British Dental Association and represents the joint views of the medical and dental professions.

The report stresses that Ministers have interfered in the Review Body for Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration (DDRB) processes as a matter of course, imposing public sector pay freezes and pay caps, and arbitrarily defining NHS 'affordability' each year.

Publication follows last week's talks on pay with Health Secretary Steve Barclay, which came just hours after the Department of Health and Social Care confirmed a real-terms cut for contract values for general dental practice in England.

The pay review process has been dogged by interminable delay, with the government routinely providing late evidence. The pay uplift for 2022/23 in England is set to be implemented 10 months late in February 2023, close to the end of the NHS financial year and backdated to April 2022.

Root and branch reform is now needed to give the DDRB real independence. Proposals include an end to the 'remit letters' from Ministers that dictate affordability at the outset, clear and enforceable timetables for the pay review process that all parties must adhere to, and powers to restore pay losses for the period where the review body has effectively had its hands tied.

BDA Chair Eddie Crouch said:

"Both dentists and medics bear the scars of a failed pay review process.

"Savage cuts to real incomes are the result of a system that's doled out pay caps and pay freezes to order.

"The NHS will keep haemorrhaging talent until we see a body with real independence."

Dr Vishal Sharma, chair of the BMA consultants committee, added:

"This report exposes the supposed independence of the pay review body as a sham designed to provide government with deniability whilst it directly meddles with pay outcomes.

"Ministers cannot continue to argue that the DDRB is independent while doctors' pay falls off a cliff and we have thousands of medical vacancies. If the pay review process is to have any hope in restoring the confidence of doctors and remedying the dire staffing shortages that we face across the NHS then it must be urgently reformed in line with its founding principles."