• Matt Hancock announces launch of 2020-21 pay round
  • Government and BMA explore new multiyear pay and contract reform deal for SAS doctors

The government has embarked on an attempt to reform the contracts of the roughly 9,000 specialty and associate specialists doctors working in the NHS.

This was revealed in a letter, sent on Wednesday, to the new chair of the Doctors’ and Dentists’ Review Body, Christopher Pilgrim, from health and social care secretary Matt Hancock.

The letter said: “For specialty doctors and associate specialists, we are embarking on exploratory talks with the BMA [British Medical Association] with a view to negotiating a multiyear pay and contract reform deal.

“Any agreed deal would need to be one that gives valued staff a fair pay rise alongside improved recruitment and retention and developing reforms which better reflect modern working practices, service needs and fairness for employers.

“This does not prejudge the role of the DDRB in recommending the level of pay award that these staff should receive, but we would expect your recommendations to be informed by these talks with the BMA and we will update you on [this] progress.”

Mr Hancock’s letter marks the start of the 2020-21 pay round. It comes after consultants received a 2.5 per cent backdated pay rise earlier this year amid “serious concerns” for workforce morale.

Negotiations over a new consultants’ contract ground to a halt last year over Treasury refusal to fund pay rises linked to greater flexibility in working patterns.

The DDRB has been invited to “make recommendations on an annual pay award for consultants”.

Mr Hancock also told the board the government is seeking views on ”the targeting of available funds in pay in 2020-21 to ensure recruitment and retention pressures are properly addressed”.

He added that, because independently contracted GPs are in talks over a five-year pay deal being negotiated between NHS England and the BMA, no recommendations are being sought for this group. The DDRB is invited to recommend pay rises on both the minimum and maximum of salaries pay scales, however, they “need to be informed by affordability” and the fixed contract resources available to practices.

The health and social care secretary stressed: “The affordability of pay recommendations will have to be considered within the context of the affordability assumptions underpinning the NHS long-term plan, the importance of making planned workforce growth affordable and other financial risks facing the NHS.

“Given the NHS budget has been set for five years (2019-20 – 2023-24), there is a direct trade-off between pay and staff numbers and our evidence, and that from NHS England and NHS Improvement, will set out the balance.”