Chancellor ends nurse pay cap but ignores pressures on GPs

CREDIT: This story was first seen in OnMedica

Philip Hammond promised more money for the NHS and a pay rise for nurses in his autumn budget announcement, but ignored GPs, said doctors’ leaders, OnMedica reports.

The BMA accused the chancellor of the exchequer of missing a vital chance to plug the black hole in NHS finances, and the Royal College of GPs said that although he had recognised the need to act on winter pressures, his budget “overlooked the increased pressures that GPs and our teams will be under, and the role general practice plays in alleviating pressures on our colleagues in secondary care”.

The Royal College of Nursing said it was pleased that Philip Hammond had “listened to the tens of thousands of nursing staff who’ve been campaigning for fair pay” and addressed their concerns, and called on him to ensure that his promise of additional money for nursing pay translates into a “meaningful rise”. The RCN is calling for a pay rise in line with the retail price index, plus £800 to begin to make up for the years of lost pay. NHS Employers also welcomed his lifting of the pay cap for NHS staff.

But the chancellor received little praise from either doctors or provider organisations. NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson welcomed the promised of more capital and some more funds for this year, but he said the budget “is another missed opportunity and falls well short of what is needed to relieve the massive pressures facing the NHS today”. NHS Clinical Commissioners were pleased by “additional funding provided to cover the costs of the much needed removal of the pay cap” but also warned that it falls far short of the funding that is desperately needed to sustain the NHS and to transform services. NHS Providers called the new funding “less than the NHS needed but more than was expected” and The King’s Fund noted that it is “significantly less than the £4 billion we estimate the NHS needs next year”.

The Nuffield Trust agreed that despite the sizeable extra funding boost of around £2 billion to the NHS next year, “the reality is that we still need a more permanent shift in the amount of money Britain spends on health and social care if we are to give patients, now and in the future, continued access to timely care at the best international standards.” It pointed out that the chancellor has appeared to make no commitment to funding pay increases for medical staff.

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The BMA warned that although the budget might ease short-term pressures on the NHS, it offers it little respite during the toughest period in its history. BMA Council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul commented: “It falls far short of addressing the serious, long-term funding problems facing the NHS and doesn’t plug the funding black hole identified by the NHS’ own leaders. … Today’s budget was a missed opportunity to put patient care first, address the funding gap and undo damaging cuts to the NHS.”

He pointed out that new figures only yesterday revealed a significant fall in the number of GPs, and three in four medical specialities are struggling to fill training places – and called on the government to make investing in the NHS workforce an urgent priority. He also criticised the chancellor for failing to take action against the damaging impact of alcohol, tobacco and poor diet on people’s health.

Dr Nagpaul said: “With workforce pressures and uncertainly from Brexit looming, today was an opportunity to put the NHS on stable footing as we enter uncertain times. It was an opportunity missed.”

The RCGP echoed others’ concerns that the budget was a ‘missed opportunity’ for the chancellor to heed experts’ warnings that the NHS desperately needs more funding to maintain the standards of care that have led to it consistently being ranked among the best in the world. But it was particularly dismayed by the chancellor’s failure to address the pressures on general practice and grant it a ‘fair share’ of additional funding.

College chair Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard said: “It’s very disappointing that he has overlooked the increased pressures that GPs and our teams will be under, and the role general practice plays in alleviating pressures on our colleagues in secondary care. …

“General practice is under more strain than ever before, we’re in the midst of an unprecedented workforce crisis, we’re seeing cases of GP burnout, practice closures and yesterday we heard that numbers of GPs in England have actually fallen over the last six months.

“We need the government to ensure that NHS England’s GP Forward View, including £2.4 billion extra a year for general practice and 5,000 more GPs, will be delivered in full as a matter of urgency.”

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