The government is set to offer around 1 million NHS staff a 6.5% pay rise over the next three years, but in return for giving up a day’s holiday, a leaked document has revealed. It is believed that there have been positive talks between the two sides and a deal is not far off.
Nurses, midwives, healthcare assistants and ambulance staff and other workers excluding doctors and dentists would benefit from the scrapping of the current hated pay cap.
The deal applies to 1.3 million NHS workers, and it is claimed that those on lower pay bands will get a higher percentage uplift than the best-paid NHS staff, but by how much is unclear.
After months of behind the scenes talks between NHS personnel and union leaders, the news comes after police officers were given a 1% rise plus a 1% bonus, and prison officers getting a 1.7% pay rise, both funded from existing budgets.
Jeremy Hunt, health and social secretary, signalled last autumn that the system of pay may be reworked to help deliver the “productivity improvements” that Hammond was demanding as part of the deal to lift the pay cap.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, backed staff’s plea for a pay rise after seven years of wage restraint and said action was needed in order to help tackle the service’s growing problems in retaining staff.
Not everybody thinks that the deal is good enough for NHS staff. Nigel Edwards said that losing a day’s leave would in effect be a pay cut of 0.4% even with the salary increase.
Unions representing nurses and other NHS staff said that pay has fallen in this sector by 15% since 2010, once inflation is taken into account.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said that he welcomes any move that will lift anyone out of poverty, but it is mean spirited to take a day’s holiday off staff. “Inflation at the moment is 2.8%. So if it’s 3% this year it’s still a standstill,” said McDonnell.
Professor Anita Charlesworth, director of research at the Health Foundation, says: “The NHS needs urgent action to turn around nurse recruitment and retention. One in 10 nursing posts are unfilled and an increasing number of staff are leaving the NHS.
Improving pay, especially for those on lower incomes, is very important. However, pay is not a panacea. Nurses report that two of the most important factors causing them to leave the NHS are worries about quality of care and lack of work-life balance.”