Foundation trusts could begin fresh attempts to find more savings within the Agenda for Change contract, Nursing Times understands.
A national deal to dilute Agenda for Change was agreed in February, bringing to an end automatic incremental pay rises, enhanced out-of-hours sick pay, and nurses receiving two increment rises during their first year after qualification.
Despite the agreement of the new AfC deal, one trust chief executive told Nursing Times the NHS was “heading for a financial cliff edge” in coming years due to the increasing cost of the clinical workforce, pay rises and demands for savings.
As a result, many health service employers are now looking for further cost saving changes that can be made in areas such as skill mix, staff deployment and service delivery.
A source close to the NHS Staff Council said: “There is no trust saying they want to abandon Agenda for Change. What people may do is use their local discretion within the national framework.”
The Foundation Trust Network, which represents over 200 NHS organisations, has told Nursing Times it will seek a dialogue with its members on what the next steps should be.
Network chief executive Chris Hopson said: “Over the next six months, my view is that a consensus will emerge about what we need to do next.
“Something has to happen. We have a situation where trusts are being asked to make 5% savings each year while they are spending 60-70% on pay. You can’t expect them to meet their savings targets and not touch the total pay bill.”
The news comes as the South West “pay cartel” has seen more of its members abandon its central threat to break away from the AfC framework.
The South West Pay, Terms and Conditions Consortium has now seen seven trusts leave from its 20 original members. The latest to go – Devon Partnership NHS Trust and University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust – confirmed their departure in March.
The consortium had threatened to restart attempts to break away from AfC in future if it deemed the savings from the new AfC arrangements to be insufficient.
But Jeannett Martin, regional director of RCN South West, called upon all trusts in the region to confirm they would not return to the cartel.
“This will be a first step in rebuilding staff trust and confidence,” she said.
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