Dentists across the UK have experienced wholly unacceptable delays from all four UK governments when it comes to detail on the size and approach to delivering their annual pay uplifts.
And 3 months on from the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration (DDRB) recommendations on pay (which landed 4 months later than they did last year) too many of our members are still waiting.
Our job is – and sadly remains – to demand clarity on your pay. We have set out a full update for members in every field of practice. And for colleagues in Northern Ireland, and GDPs in England we are still no closer to an answer.
Officials in Northern Ireland at least have some scope to say they have been operating for over 18 months without a government. Authorities in England have no such excuses.
Where we have detail, we are seeing a mixed picture. The Welsh Government has made great hay of pledging a greater uplift for GDPs in Wales than colleagues are expected to receive in England. We have long advocated using the Retail Price Index (RPI) as a more reliable measure of inflation to uplift expenses, and we can welcome the fact the Welsh Government has agreed to this approach, with an overall uplift of 2.77%. Where Wales leads, we call on other governments to follow.
Yet all uplifts agreed or proposed fall short of addressing the huge erosion this profession has seen on pay. We have witnessed unprecedented falls in real incomes since the financial crash, while costs of compliance have shot up by 1000%. And we are now seeing the real cost, in terms of tangible threats to the long-term sustainability of NHS services in all four nations.
It's why we have now concluded this annual farce with pay reviews cannot continue. Together with our colleagues at the BMA we have set out a joint statement to Health Secretary Matt Hancock that fundamental change is needed now.
Dentists' and doctors' pay has been governed by this process since 1960. And both professions have seen its mooted independence eroded.
The DDRB was designed, by a Royal Commission no less, to give our members "some assurance that their standards of living will not be depressed by arbitrary Government action", achieving "the settlement of remuneration without public dispute".
It was meant to offer us a valuable safeguard. That our remuneration would be determined, in practice, by a group of "independent persons of standing and authority" not committed to "the Government's point of view."
But in recent years, as both the BDA and BMA have gone through the motions of providing evidence to the DDRB, it has been harder and harder to reconcile these worthy funding principles with the reality our members face under an austerity pay policy.
The DDRB process is clearly no longer acceptable to the medical and dental professions. We believe it is now time for sweeping reform of the pay review process, on the basis of the following principles:
- Restitution of the DDRB's independence and return to its original purpose.
- Revision of its terms of reference to narrow the DDRB's focus purely on pay uplifts rather than making recommendations on wider contractual matters.
- Clear timetables for submission of evidence and publications of the report, and an undertaking that government(s) must not fetter the parameters of the DDRB's recommendations.
- Re-establishment of the undertaking that government(s) will respect and implement the DDRB's recommendations.
We have sent our message to Matt Hancock as have our colleagues at the BMA. We will continue to demand real clarity on uplifts for 2018, but for the long term both Associations are committed to securing a pay review process that doctors and dentists can once again have some confidence in.
Vice Chair, BDA
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