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Accept Agenda for Change pay increment freeze to keep your job, nurses told

Nurses would be offered immunity from redundancy if they agreed to have their Agenda for Change pay increments frozen under secret foundation trust plans.

Nursing Times is aware of foundation trusts across the country that are working on proposals to prevent staff from automatically moving up the Agenda for Change pay scale, or are lobbying the government to implement a national freeze.

“If we have a demoralised workforce, performance will suffer, quality will suffer, so it’s up to nurse leadership to make sure that doesn’t happen”

The increments are worth an annual 2.9 per cent increase to a nurse at the bottom of band 5 of the pay framework. This is on top of the inflation linked pay rise worth 2.25 per cent in 2010-11, which drops to zero next year.

Foundation trusts claim the increments cost them £360m a year - equivalent to the wages of 10,900 staff. The figures would be roughly double if all hospital and mental health trusts were included.

However, only foundation trusts are allowed to set their own terms and conditions.

Unison senior national officer Mike Jackson said stopping increments would be a breach of contract.

He warned: “A mixture of legal action and industrial action would follow. This is not a way to proceed.”

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One trust, which spoke to sister magazine Health Service Journal anonymously, is proposing to offer staff job guarantees if they forego increments.

Beachcroft solicitors employment team partner Guy Bredenkamp confirmed such a move would be legal.

However, he added: “To introduce a freeze, you’d need either a national agreement or a local agreement with staff side.

“This presupposes agreement with the unions. There’s absolutely no sign that would be forthcoming.”

Queen Margaret University professor Jim Buchan also had reservations, saying the plan would put nurses under “undue pressure to sign up to something that otherwise they wouldn’t wish to” and would be “quite divisive”.

However, the chief executive of a foundation trust said he was prepared to “push the button” on increment freezes.

As revealed in Nursing Times last year, some trusts are already restricting incremental pay to staff who take too many days off sick or fail to attend mandatory training sessions.

Alison Leary, University College London Hospital Foundation Trust Macmillan senior lecturer in oncology, said senior nurses should resist attempts to withhold pay.

She said: “If we have a demoralised workforce, performance will suffer, quality will suffer, so it’s up to nurse leadership to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Foundation trust plans to freeze staff pay emerged as the BBC Panorama programme and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism published data revealing more than 26,000 NHS bosses earned more than £100,000 a year.

Nursing Times’ analysis of the data found the highest paid nurse managers are more likely to work at foundation trusts and were disproportionately men.

Only 63 of the 26,000 highest NHS earners in the list are directors of nursing, executive directors of nursing or chief nurses.

More than half of those were employed by acute foundation hospital trusts and only 16 came from non foundation acute trusts. There were four strategic health authority nurse managers and four employed by primary care trusts.

Among the high earning nurse managers whose gender was known, 23 per cent at acute trusts were men, even though men make up just 8 per cent of the acute nursing workforce. This adds weight to a Nursing Times investigation that found men were disproportionately represented in top nursing jobs.

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Nurses respond to calls for pay freeze  

Readers' comments (50)

  • This is absolutely ridiculous, why yet again penalise the hard working staff who do not get any other rewards. As for mandatory training if there was enough staff in departments then we would not have problems attending the mandatory training, there is never any money to attend courses we have to either fund ourselves or write to reps for sponsorship ie begging letters. We all do extra hours to bring in a bit of extra money and to keep the service running to maintain targets. What about targeting the fat managers and excecitives who spend there time at meetings but don't seem to acheive much and use NHS company cars! Use your own cars like the workhorses have to. Stop bring in all these expensive consortiums to do cost ut exercises to give advice on how to save money they cost the NHS millions and suggest ridiculous ways of saving money which involves staff cuts. The NHS has too many highly paid managers the front line hands on are the salt of the NHS they should not be penilised, however the serial sickies should be targeted not the genuine sick staff who have good reason for there sickness which can be proved. Don't leave the staff poor and destitute yet again,somebody decided on a new pay structure to compensate us now your trying to destroy it and use it to penilise us. STOP THIS NOW

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  • How much money is spent in the NHS paying locum staff (all grades) nearly twice the rate if a full time equivelant. Then there is the matter of travelling and course expenses paid out to medical staff which in most trusts very few Nurses actually get paid.
    Recent moves by Trusts to "economise and streamline" management seem to all have the same number of managereal staff and the attendant support staff as pre "streamlining.
    There must also be a question why Trusts are still increasing the number of Consultants (plus support) they are employing without any real increase to the number of patients they are dealing with. Surely that alone is increasing the cost to the NHS of the Service those extra Consultants are employing

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  • Yet again the nurses are being held to ransom. The majority of nurses are already struggling to keep up with inflation. cost of living is soaring with no let up predicted for 5 years. We work hard and support our organisations by doing all those extra things that ensure that it conitnues to work. If we all stopped putting in the extra time, doing the things that weren't officially part of our jobs we know the system would fail. It would require additional staff in posts to make it do so. we try to ensure that training mandatory and required is given and supportive, but this is getting harder to do due to staff shortages and the hard push to always put the service first. A demoralised workforce will result in less commitment and willingnesss to do that litta, will lead to staff having to do bank or agency outside their Trle extrusts to be able to financially keep up with cost of living and will result in tired staff and increased sickness. Managers wake up....... we are already doing more and getting less.

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  • how accurate are these figures they have quoted. there are a lot of nurses out there who do not get increments as they are at the top of the pay band and have not had an increment for several years. I agree that it is wrong to penalise nurses yet again and that the management should honour there part of the contracts that we are employed on. We are also over represented by managers both in the hoapital services and the community services

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  • I thought front line staff were being protected anyway? Has this changed now?

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  • As usual, lower paid staff are getting squeezed whilst the highly-paid just get more and more. Its madness!

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  • What a suprise...what goes around, comes around. Those of us who were working for the NHS in the 80s have seen this all before. Any managers or government cronies who read this blog ( although I doubt you do) need to take note....this kind of treatment was what fueled a mass exodus of nurses from the UK. I was one of them and headed to the US (where I now wish I had stayed). The rise of the foundation trust is the last step on the road to a fully privatised service. I would bet my measly increments on that. By 2020 there will be an NHS is name only. Roll on retirement- although I'm pretty sure our pansions will be the next thing to be targeted.

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  • sounds like blackmail and use of nurses as pawns in the spokes of the wheels of the political machinery

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  • It's time to re-look at the top managers pay and terms and conditions, what these people are paid is wrong, it's unfair and they certainly are not doing the job that they are paid to do. Take money off them, not the lower paid!

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  • Dino-nurse is so right. The 80's as far as I am concerned started the slow death of the NHS.
    What we must remember is that those in charge of the management cost cutting are those who should be cut!
    In my organization the percentage of senior posts has statisitically INCREASED and those most at risk are clinicians.
    One question - are medics and dentists also being asked to take a pay and 'bonus' freeze?

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  • Pay freezes, increment freezes, re-banding (down) of clinical posts and loss of unsocial hours enhancements are just for starters. Our spineless unions will “reluctantly” agree to all of these measures in order to “protect jobs”

    Cuts need to be made at the top: Modern Matrons have been - in my experience - a complete waste of money and this whole layer of “meeting goers” could be culled without any impact on the care patients receive. The number of Infection Control Nurses could also be drastically cut and the money being spent on ward domestics. The way money has been wasted on these none jobs is appalling.

    I know its hard when people have mortgages and bills to pay, but if we accept these changes to our terms and conditions then we give our employers carte blanche to do as they please. I know if we take action that we will be labelled as greedy by the press due to the increases in pay many of us have had with Agenda for Change, however, if we don’t stand together and fight then our jobs won’t be worth having anyway. We’ve been too soft for too long and need to fight back!

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  • I think that its sad that nurses are to be effectively blackmailed into taking what will become a pay reduction . I would urge managers to consider the extra unpaid work that all nurses to do for the benefit of their patients and colleagues. This is an unpaid resource which would cost millions if staff actually worked their contractual hours only. Remove goodwill and this may well be the result.

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  • And here we go again, when will all these cuts end? When there is nothing left to cut anymore.

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  • Think the NHS should rethink! What if all the nurses started charging for every 10,20 30 minutes they went off late. The cost to the NHS would be astranomical.

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  • What the hell??????!!!!!!!

    We are already woefully underpaid, and never mind all the unpaid hours etc that Nurses put in!!!

    We should call their bluff! They know they can't do without us! Wasn't it only a week or two ago that NT stated that trusts rely on Nurses to achieve targets and status with the CQC etc? What about our renumeration for that then?? It's time for a strike! Seriously, how do people not see this?

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  • As a nurse involved in the issues mentioned, I would firstly like to thank the unions for their advice and support, it was much needed, as the trust I work for tried to push the changes on to us as a fait accompli. We were told unions had been consulted and changes to our contract in the witholding of increments was accepted. I incidentally was told by a colleague and have still not received official notification from the trust. We will be fighting the changes and I wonder at this point just how much our chief exec will be receiving in pay increments and just how much more they earn than the PM. I agree with all other comments and worry that front line staff are being held to ransom currently. I did not nurse in the 80's but my sister did and I can fully imagine nursing staff working to rule to demonstrate their dissatisfaction in the manner they did then. More and more colleagues are discssing strike action and work to rule yet trusts and managers think of nursing staff striking as a joke, do they realise the pay increment freeze affects all staff on agenda for change not just nurses, and that all staff are unhappy, dissatisfied and willing to do what it takes to protect their salary.

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  • Its funny that the banks justify still paying out bonuses to ensure that they get the best staff - what do we want in the NHS badly paid poor staff?

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  • We've been here before - when I started my training all 3rd year students were advised to apply for secretarial jobs as there were no nursing positions available - cuts!

    I'm at the top of my pay band, but am very sad to say for the first time in my career that I would support strike action if incremental freezes were introduced.

    And another thing...I am SICK TO DEATH of hearing that our 'gold plated pensions' are a drain on the public purse. My pension is why I've stayed working for the NHS - its been the only saving grace for taking 24 hour responsibility for an acute unit & managing 30 wonderful hard working, tired & fed up nurses. I've never been paid appropriately for my position.

    A message to the private sector moaners, to the ex-labour government who have blown & wasted all the cash & to the new government with a hard task ahead - give us a break & be warned...nurses are getting twitched & will be a force to be reckoned with.

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  • It comes as no surprise that NHS Management want to "save" money in this way.

    However, it is my firm conviction that our biggest nursing "union" needs to rethink it's priorities regarding its members. It needs to remember that its members pay subscriptions not to fund forums and mechanisms to improve patient care, but to improve their own working conditions and pay, and the best representation money can buy. Furthermore, the members also pay the salaries of the officials. For this reason the "union" should be more vocal in its opposition to pay cuts, changes in conditions. I think that unless the members of that union decide to scrap the "no strike" policy then nurses will never have the sufficient clout to defy draconian pay freezes and changes to their working conditions.

    Even dropping the no strike policy would give nurses extra clout in negotiation. In any negotiation an employer will always ask the question " well, what will employees do if we don't give them what they want?" the answer, as always with nurses is "nothing".

    So, a suggestion to nurses (of which i am one, and a proud one), stop moaning about conditions and pay, and start a process whereby you will have enough power to improve them.

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  • While they are at it perhaps the army of non medical accountancy trained drones who have taken over the NHS prior to privatisation consider doubling the hours worked by Nurses for the same pay?

    Failing that they themselves could always try to find gainful employment in industry where they could develop their knowledge base and ideas without endangering the well being of the sick and needy, but they have already laid British industry to waste through applying their profiteering, get rich quick schemes.

    Strike action???? That won’t work they will flood the country with Nurses from across Europe...because they can. This has been seen in all industries...Builders, Plumbers, Electricians....even the car wash.

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