Full details of the proposed changes to nurses’ national pay and conditions being sought by government negotiators have been revealed.
The news comes as unions are threatening to walk away from the negotiating table because of the formation of local pay “cartels”.
Plans to alter Agenda for Change emerged at the Unison health conference in April. But NHS Employers, which is negotiating on behalf of the government, has now unveiled the full range of changes it wants to see agreed.
One previously unknown proposal would see trusts given the freedom to move more senior nurses out of Agenda for Change entirely and allow employers the ability to pay locally agreed salaries.
NHS Employers also wants an “explicit requirement” that staff meet “locally determined performance standards” before they receive incremental rises.
Additionally, it wants pay increases for nurses who reach the top end of each pay band – but are yet to move into the next band – to get a lump-sum payment. This would not form part of the basic salary and could crucially be taken away if workers fail to meet the performance standard.
If agree, the proposals would also see a further weakening of the NHS Knowledge and Skills Framework, which has never been fully adopted or used as originally intended. The proposed changes would allow employers to use alternative criteria, although these would still need to be in line with KSF principles.
As revealed in Nursing Times last week, new starters to band 5 would also only be eligible for one incremental increase in their first year, instead of the current two.
Sickness pay would be reduced to only the basic salary, plus the payment of any high cost area supplements with no out-of-hours enhancements.
The NHS Employers documents also note that unions have suggested that a set of good practice rules be introduced by trusts when attempting to re-band, or “re-profile”, posts.
NHS Employers believe the amendments to Agenda for Change will make Agenda for Change more flexible and allow trusts to make progress in attempting to save £20bn across the NHS.
Without a national agreement, NHS Employers has warned unions there is a greater chance trusts will seek their own local solutions.
But Josie Irwin, head of employment at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “The guiding principle behind our response is that we believe the principles behind Agenda for Change have to be preserved.
“Nurses agreed to Agenda for Change because it was a fair system, and the RCN will oppose attempts to erode those principles.”
However, negotiations have been made more tense by the creation of two groups of trusts - in the South West and the North West - that are seeking regional changes to the AfC framework.
Unison has suggested it will not negotiate further with NHS Employers until the South West consortium in particular is dealt with.
Unison’s head of health Christina McAnea told NHS Employers representatives at a meeting last week that it would not be possible to continue talks until the group in the South West made a commitment to stick to any future national agreement.
In a statement, Ms McAnea : “If the Employers want to talk to Unison about making changes to Agenda for Change, they will need to talk to this rogue cartel first. The national implications are impossible to ignore. We have made our views clear and we will continue to fight this pay cartel until it is derailed.”
Unite head of health Rachael Maskell agreed that the cartel was undermining the national talks. “There is no way we will be able to engage in one lot of talks when there is no weight in them and employers elsewhere are looking at doing their own thing,” she said. “Employers need to decide which horse they are riding.”
Dean Royles, director of NHS Employers, has previously insisted that “terms and conditions do need to adapt”, but said the best way to protect national pay and conditions was to negotiate.
Last week Employers deputy director Gill Bellord said: “We have had constructive discussions with the NHS trade unions for some time and are pleased that they have agreed to put these proposals to their members for consideration.”
As reported by Nursing Times health unions have launched a joint national consultation with local representatives and members on the proposals, which is due to close on 27 July.
A formal response to the proposals from the unions is due to be submitted to NHS Employers in early September.
|Proposed changes to pay progression:|
|There will be an “explicit requirement” that staff progression through the different pay points in each pay band is conditional on workers meeting “locally determined performance standards.” These will be measured against a new set of national principles|
|Pay progression will not be deferred on performance grounds unless a documented discussion between the individual and their reviewer has taken place, and they have been given a “reasonable” chance to demonstrate the required improvements|
|Pay progression for nurses at the top end of each pay band – prior to entering the next band – will be non-consolidated, meaning it will be a lump-sum payment that will not form part of the salary. This non-recurring payment will be reviewed annually|
|Where a nurse who already has a non-consolidated pay award falls below the required standard they would have one non-consolidated pay point taken away|
|New starters to band 5 would only be eligible for one incremental increase in their first year, instead of the current two, after the initial preceptorship period|
|Employers will be able to use other frameworks to assess skills and knowledge instead of the Knowledge and Skills Framework, which will no longer be required for annual reviews|
|Nurses will be able to seek a review of any decision where they have not met the performance criteria|
|The changes will come into effect after April 2013|
|Proposed changes to sick pay:|
|Workers absent due to sickness will be paid only their basic salary, including achieved pay progression points, and including pay for being in high cost areas (around London)|
|High cost area supplements would only be paid if they were in place the day before the sickness absence began|
|There would be no other payments or allowances for staff absent during sickness including additional work commitments, unsocial hours payments and working pattern payments|
|Greater protection from re-banding:|
Unions have made their own proposals to NHS Employers to counter the threat of down-banding sections of the workforce in the NHS, as trusts attempt to save money.
They have put forward a set of good practice principles that employers should follow when carrying out a workforce “re-profiling” project.
These principles are based on the job evaluation principles and guidance set out in the NHS Job Evaluation Handbook.
If accepted, it would mean a national set of good practice criteria NHS trusts should follow when considering re-banding workers and would give unions the ability to challenge trusts working outside of the principles.