The head of NHS Employers has suggested introducing a “living wage” – calculated according to the basic cost of living – for health service staff as an alternative to the annual review of basic pay.
Dean Royles also floated the idea of multi-year pay deals. He put forward the ideas in an article in Nursing Times’ sister title HSJ, in which he called for a debate on how to ensure a “smooth exit” from the era of health service pay restraint.
Later this month the NHS Pay Review Body is expected to make its yearly recommendations to the government on changes to basic pay for health service staff, which is expected to be around 1%.
Mr Royles repeated claims this would cost £500m, which he said was equivalent to the salaries of 15,000 nurses. He said employers could not go on asking for pay freezes but instead needed to be “creative and bold” in tackling NHS pay.
“Let’s explore options for multi-year deals. Or let’s explore how we could move towards the ‘living wage’. Surely it’s right to explore and test out assumptions, to see if it will help us contain costs, secure jobs and allow a smooth exit from a period of pay restraint,” he said.
But unions have highlighted the real-terms fall in incomes over recent years following two years of a pay freeze, higher pension costs and a 1% pay rise in 2013.