Further pay restrictions are a “bitter blow” to NHS staff, says BMA

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 02 December 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d7858
  1. Helen Mooney
  1. 1London

The government has added to its already acrimonious dispute with public sector employees by announcing a cap of 1% on pay rises for the next two years.

On the back of the current pay freeze public sector workers can expect no more than an annual increase of 1% in their pay packets from 2013 to 2015. Announcing the new measures chancellor George Osborne also suggested that there could be an end to national bargaining in future.

Mr Osborne laid out plans to ask pay review bodies to look at how public sector pay could be made “more responsive to local labour markets” to ensure the private sector does not lose out.

The announcement in his autumn statement came as figures published by the Office for Budget Responsibility suggest that 710 000 public sector jobs could go within the next five years, compared with the 400 000 it had previously expected as a result of the government’s spending cuts.

Responding to the plans for a pay rise cap Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the BMA, said: “The chancellor’s decision to bypass the normal pay review process for a further two years and announce another sub-inflationary pay award will come as a bitter blow to all those who work in the NHS.

“Doctors, like their public sector colleagues, are angry at the government’s proposals to slash the value of their pensions. This announcement, coming on top of what will be three years of pay freeze for senior doctors, will further alienate those who are working hard to deliver improvements to patient care.”

Elsewhere the government announced that science, research, and development and technology based small and medium sized companies will benefit from additional government funding from next year.

An extra £200m (€233m; $314m) will be invested in science, including an £80m investment for the Institute for Animal Health and £25m for technology demonstrators. An additional £75m is also being made available to support technology based small and medium sized companies.

Mr Osborne said that the government would include an “above the line” tax credit in 2013 to encourage research and development activity by larger companies.

He added that in December the prime minister David Cameron would also set out a new strategy to “ensure that the UK is the best location for undertaking translational research in life sciences.

“The strategy will outline how the government will support the life sciences work of universities, the NHS, private investors, and businesses to attract and develop talent and improve incentives.”

Responding to the announcement Sir Paul Nurse president of the Royal Society said:

“This additional £200m for research infrastructure is good news. We have world class scientists and they need world class places to do their work—you would not keep a Da Vinci in a garden shed.

“The repeated references to science and innovation in the chancellor’s speech show a commitment to science and engineering being the basis for a sustainable economic recovery but it will only happen if we are willing to invest heavily, like many of our competitors. Today’s announcements must be the start of that additional investment rather than just a one off.”

Mark Downs, chief executive of the Society of Biology, added that the government’s support for translational life science research would be “potentially a major step forward for the biological sciences, which have significant potential to help the economy grow whilst delivering major health, environmental and social benefits.”

Mr Osborne also indicated that the government intends to make more public sector information available to the public in a bid to “help catalyse new markets and innovative products and services as well as improving standards and transparency in public services.”

The government says it will open up access to core public datasets on transport, weather, and health, including giving individuals access to their online GP records by 2015 and spend £10m over five years to establish an Open Data Institute to help industry exploit the opportunities created through release of these data.


Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d7858

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