The Department of Health has said nurses and other healthcare staff could get a small increase in their basic pay next year, despite employers’ calls for an extension of the pay freeze.
The DH said in its evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body last week that it had made allowance for an average basic pay increase of 1%.
The pay review body will recommend later this year whether there should be an increase in basic Agenda for Change pay scales over the next financial year and, if so, by how much.
In its submission to the review body the DH stated: “The government has provided sufficient funding for the NHS to support an average annual headline pay increase of up to 1% for NHS staff in 2013-14 and invites the PRB to make recommendations on how this might best be distributed.”
The DH said the review body could recommend pay rises of more than 1% for some staff groups but the overall rise must not exceed this figure.
However, it argued there was a strong case for continued pay restraint across the public sector, noting that 60% of staff on Agenda for Change would receive incremental pay rises averaging 3.5%.
The DH also claimed that “recruitment, retention, morale and motivation remain strong”. This is contrary to the evidence submitted by unions, which said a third of staff had very seriously considered leaving the NHS.
As part of its analysis the DH also said the need for savings continued to put pressure on the NHS and said going forward “reductions in clinical posts cannot be ruled out”.
NHS Employers, which represents trusts and other health service organisations, has argued for no increase in basic pay in its evidence to the review body. Its director Dean Royles said: “We recognise high quality services depend on having committed and motivated staff and I would love to be in a different position.
“The harsh reality is that the NHS simply cannot afford to increase pay scales as well,” he said. “If pay levels do increase next year it will inevitably put further pressure on patient care and could affect job security.”