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Employers to demand fresh pay freeze for NHS staff


Nurses should not get a basic rise in pay next April, according to the NHS Employers organisation, which is claiming a 1% rise would cost £500m.

Meanwhile, unions have said NHS nurses are suffering stress and low morale due to the combination of government reforms and below-inflation pay rises.

The contrasting views represent the first salvoes in the annual process in which government advisory group the NHS Pay Review Body decides whether to recommend a basic pay rise to ministers based on evidence submitted by employers, unions and the government.  

Unions have submitted their evidence to the Pay Review Body claiming that staff have not had a real-terms pay increase since 2006.

But NHS Employers is expected to argue that “pay drift” – due to staff moving up Agenda for Change increments – means 55% of NHS staff will receive basic pay increases, averaging 3.4% in 2013-14. Over the past three years, pay drift for non-medical staff has averaged around 0.9%.

Unions claim the government’s on-going below inflation pay cap of 1% means NHS staff have suffered a real-terms pay cut equivalent to 8-12%. This has come on the back of a two year pay freeze in 2011 and 2012, plus increases in pension contributions.

But NHS Employers says unprecedented financial challenges means a pay increase is unaffordable. In its submission to the Pay Review Body, it is expected to say any pay rise should be linked to future pay reform and negotiations over seven day working.

The idea comes as the organisation is about to begin contract negotiations with both junior doctors and NHS consultants, during which seven day working is expected to form a major part of the discussions.

If the pay review body accepts the recommendation it could mean NHS Employers will seek further changes to the Agenda for Change framework, despite a new deal having only been agreed in February this year.

Christina McAnea, joint chair of the NHS Staff Council and head of health at Unison, said: “This, together with cuts in staffing and services, increased demand and, in England, the huge NHS re-organisation, has led to low morale and high stress levels.

Josie Irwin, from the Royal College of Nursing and joint secretary of the NHS Staff Council, said: “Claiming that fair wages cannot be afforded, while the latest figures show senior managers have enjoyed substantial pay increases, sends the message to frontline staff that their contributions are not valued, which is bad for staff and bad for the NHS.”

Meanwhile, the Unite union wants any pay rise to be “bottom loaded” as a flat cash sum to help the lowest paid members of staff.

Recent data from the NHS Information Centre showed the average annual basic pay in the 12 months to June 2013 for NHS staff was £29,543.

Doctors – excluding locums and GPs – earned £58,813, a 1.4% increase on 2012 and a 5.5% increase on 2009. Consultants saw a 0.5% rise to £87,584, while doctors in training saw pay increase 1% to £26,056.

Qualified nurses, including midwives and health visitors, were paid an average of £30,619, a 0.6% increase on 2012 and a 7.5% increase on 2009.

Senior managers saw the largest percentage increase on 2012 at 1.8%, up to £75,759, and also the largest percentage increase on 2009, at 12.9%.

The Consumer Price Index measure of inflation has varied since 2009 from 1.1-5.2%.

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Readers' comments (21)

  • I can't say I'm surprised with NHS employer's attitude: they know that the unions are little more than inward-looking talking-shops (particularly the RCN), they know that staff need their jobs and are very unlikely to strike and that there is little sympathy from the general public thanks to the well-organised negative media campaign.

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  • Why do employers insist on quoting the statistically meaningless average? Of more significance is the Median or 50th centile salary, which gives a truer picture.

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  • totally not surprised, the more the weak-willed unions back-peddle the more the bullish management will erode the rights of the workers and renage on agreements before the ink is even dry. I don't blame the management, I blame the ineffectual unions....are they worth the membership fee???

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  • I actually now feel like striking!!
    I have never ever thought this before but i cant look after patients under these circumstances and to have to do it again with no pay increments when fat cat bosses of all industry including NHS are raking it just not doing it.
    None of us came into this job for the money god knows that, but a decent wage and working conditions for the work we do should not be too much to ask.

    Thats it.... Im out!!!

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  • i hope the NHS employers apply the logic to their own jobs .............all for one one for all

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  • Front line staff are not valued by NHS Managers, except in lip service. There are so many of them compared to other groups of staff and they are an easy target, because they do not think they should withdraw their services ever. And the unions don't know what to do.
    If I had my time again I might be a clerical assistant, then progress, via a degree and a couple of meaningless courses, to be a senior manager on loads of money!

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  • how many years has this pay freeze been going on? As one on the top of the increment scale, I don't get an annual increment increase either.

    I know life is not about money, but what is the point staying in a dead-end job with no prospects?

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  • how many years has this pay freeze been going on? It seems like more than 2! As one on the top of the increment scale, I don't get an annual increment increase either.

    I know life is not about money, but what is the point staying in a dead-end job with no prospects?

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  • I agree with the above ... Also with rise in NMC fees and what do the unions actually do?

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  • Anonymous | 25-Sep-2013 5:15 pm

    A union can only be as active as its membership. The last time the unions balloted their membership about taking action, only 16% of RCN members bothered to vote, and Unison didn't fair much better. So basically, the union members instructed their unions to do nothing. If you want something done, let your union know. If you don't like the leadership, they can be voted out. Let's be honest, when was the last time most nurses emailed or phoned their local branch, or spoke to their steward to express their views and concerns? Or used the ballot papers posted out by their union to let their views be counted? Tell your union directly what you think they should be doing. Then ask yourself what you are prepared to do for a decent wage for you and your colleagues. It will require much more than a bit of bleating and a monthly diect debit.

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