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Exclusive: unions close to deal on Agenda for Change


National talks on changes to NHS workers’ pay and terms and conditions could be close to a deal, Nursing Times has learnt.

Unions and NHS Employers, which represents health service organisations, have been engaged in negotiations for more than a year over alterations to the national Agenda for Change agreement.

Sources close to talks have revealed a draft agreement has been drawn up by unions, which if adopted would mark significant changes to pay and terms and conditions.

Nursing Times understands the draft will include proposals for incremental pay rises to be subjected to performance standards and see the loss of enhanced out of hours sick pay for most workers – two big wins for health services employers.

However, unions will demand a commitment that the bulk of NHS trusts and organisations will continue to back Agenda for Change as a national framework and also want increased protection against “down-banding.”

A source close to the negotiations said all unions had been involved in the draft, which they described as the “least worst option”.

Under the draft proposals, Nursing Times has been told unions will agree to employers using performance as a tool to manage incremental pay rises. But instead of being based on local standards, which NHS Employers wanted, unions will demand a set of nationally agreed principles and protections be put in place.

Unions will also agree to the scrapping of enhanced out of hours sick pay, but will ask for protections for certain staff at lower pay points within Agenda for Change and those off sick due to work related illness of disease.

New starters to band 5 would also only be eligible for one incremental increase in their first year, instead of the current two.

In return for the concessions, unions want stronger protections for staff subjected to job evaluation processes and re-profiling, with a national set of good practice rules and rights for staff adopted by the NHS.

The Staff Council will meet on 9 November when NHS Employers could accept the suggestions and make a firm offer to unions, which are expected to take the proposals back to their executive and members for consultation.

A source close to the negotiations told Nursing Times: “The draft is the employers proposals that have been refined, it’s not come from the trade unions. The unions view is that this is the least worst option.

“It is being talked about and it’s all up for debate and could still change but I’m very confident we will get a deal,” they said.

Another senior union figure added: “The big prize for us [unions] will be if this is enough to persuade the vast majority of NHS trusts to stick to Agenda for Change.”

But the source accepted NHS Employers could not give unions a commitment that no trust would seek to break the deal, because foundation trusts have independence on terms and conditions.

“We expect there will be a few rogue trusts that will still try but we will fight them on a case by case basis,” the source added.

Unions had warned they would walk away from a deal if local threats, such as that from the South West Consortium of 20 trusts, continued to undermine the negotiations.

Unite has said it will make preparations for industrial action over the attacks to Agenda for Change.

Unison’s head of health Christina McAnea, who is chair of the union’s Staff Side Council, told Nursing Times: “Negotiations are continuing with employers. We have had a set of proposals from them and we are continuing to discuss the details.

“We are very keen to ensure as much as possible that Agenda for Change remains a national agreement and NHS employers continue to use it to employ their staff.”

She added: “Without a commitment to the future of Agenda for Change there is no incentive for us to reach an agreement.”


Readers' comments (12)

  • Watch the "work related stress" sick lines start to roll in. Just stop the enhancements on sick pay full stop. No wonder we are in the mess we are and have such high sick rates. Its a leadswingers charter.

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  • I want to know who is going to decide the "Performance tool"? How are they going to decide how to measure a nurse's performance? Is it by how many patients died in their care? Perhaps how many discharges they facilitated? Or perhaps they will ask each patient to rate every nurse that looks after them? I just do not see how this can and will work

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  • Another very poor deal for nurses. Industrial action is the only solution.......but, that will never happen.

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  • Everyone needs to get on top of the Problem: We need a good sound deal for all public sector workers from the PM to the public toilet cleaner. Yes parity between Police, Teachers & Nurses is needed too. If we want to save money why not have one public service pay and benefits package? I would love a Policeman's assisted mortgage, or a Civil Servants enhanced pension contributions. Lets ensure that the negotiators get the same deal too - no bonuses for doing their normal day job, or from the work of us minions. All I seem to get is assults, needlesticks and a free dose of D&V.

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  • I agree with Anonymous 7:04 Pm. We do need a fair sound pay deal. Nurses don't get the benefits or pay of other Public Sector workers but are exposed daily to huge stress levels, violence and sickness. We always come away worse off somehow from any pay deal. My take home pay buys me less every time. When I qualified my basic salary was £10,000 and now over 20 years later it is £20,000 basic in real terms we are no better off. Another thing that really gets on my nerves if you change to another area of nursing you lose your increments and basically have to start again. And the RCN & NMC wonder why their is a huge exodus all the time.

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  • Peedofnurse
    Lead-swingers charter? What if you are permanent night staff off with any number of ailments? Can you ask your mortgage company, gas/ electricity supplier, local council, supermarket, petrol station to charge you less because you are off sick and don't get the same wages that you rely upon every other month. God forbid it should happen to you or any of the other nurses on here.
    See, they've even managed to get the turkeys to vote for Christmas. Write to your MP and ask them why the Gov refused to set up the windfall tax on the investment banking sector. This tax would have raised upto £200 BILLION per annum on deals done by investment banks ( not on us plebs and our direct debit transactions). Now, you would have thought that to raise that massive amount of cash ( NHS, defence budget and a good portion of our state pension paid off straight away) that the tax on these transactions would be punitive. 25%? No. 10%? No way near. 5% then? Nope. 1%? Not on your nelly. 1/10th of 1%? Dont be ridiculous. 1/20th of 1%? Finally! The banks still said NO!

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  • the tory wasters are delibrately running down our nhs so trusts fail...then the privaye vultures move in..therfore more profit for their rich friends who donate to the party

    our terms and conditions are attacked every day, our hospitals are attacked every day by this unelected waste of space govt

    read this blog if you want the truth about whats happening on a daily basis

    a quote from his blog today

    At the end of last week Circle Health who are the private company running Hinchingbrooke Hospital were given a £4m bailout by you, the taxpayer to tide them over to the end of the year. (see Huntingdon Post report here)

    Today, Worcester Acute NHS Hospital Trust were denied a bailout by taxpayers. (see BBC report here)

    Why bailout the privately run NHS Hospital with taxpayers' money but refuse to bail out a NHS Trust publicly run you might ask? Is it kid glove treatment for private healthcare providers but "tough love" for the NHS? It certainly feels like it.

    I am bewildered too. You can use the button below to ask Jeremy Hunt that very question.

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  • 3 billion pounds from the nhs has been saved and given back to the treasury (see evidence in lates HSJ journal)

    so why are hospitals going bankrupt, why are nurses loosing thier jobs, why are there cut after cut to nhs services

    i will tell you why...the tory wasters are in charge....

    you could not make it up!!!!!!

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  • Yes they want to break us and then send in their friends waiting close by to go for the kill.
    The NMC was ineffective.
    We are stressed out with not a light through this tunnel.
    The unions fighting for us, but at times not strong enough. Industrial action works in other areas, but nursing is a different kettle of fish.
    Yes we are in a sad, bad state.
    Maybe the public is the answer, if the public demands good care and fight for their NHS, then perhaps nursing will be what it should be.
    In this day and age the net will have to be the important vehicle in this fight. Lets use it.

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  • Anonymous | 31-Oct-2012 4:11 pm

    You are right. The public need to wake up and smell the coffee.

    However, as long as nurses keep thinking that industrial action is not for them, then they will continue to contribute to the downfall of the NHS and worsen the already declining standards and poor outcomes for patients. The inaction of this profession is the government's best weapon.

    Also, the NMC exists as the our regulatory body. It is there to protect the public from you and me, not to advocate on our behalf. But, I agree. It is ineffective in its role.

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