Nurses will be offered guaranteed job security in return for accepting real terms pay cuts, the government has announced.
Staff will need to accept a pay rise of no more than 1 per cent from 2011 and be flexible about working in different settings and roles if their jobs are to be protected, unions and senior nurses have told Nursing Times.
But nurses are also likely to push back with demands that they receive suitable training and are involved in any decisions about the reconfiguration of nursing roles.
The job guarantee was outlined in the five-year NHS strategy, From good to great: preventative, people-centred and productive, launched by health secretary Andy Burnham last week.
Mr Burnham said the shape of the workforce needed to reflect the need to provide less care in the community and more in hospitals but he did not want that to mean mass redundancies of frontline staff.
He said: “If you are going to have an NHS that’s providing care in the community and the home that does not necessarily mean you need fewer staff.
“We were in a situation a few years ago in the NHS where people had financial pressure and lots of redundancies were announced… I do not think we need to get into that position.”
But Unison senior national officer Mike Jackson said: “Even if people were prepared to take a 0 per cent pay rise that wouldn’t necessarily immunise them from job cuts.
“What’s clear is there’s a need for greater flexibility as people move out from one role to another.”
Shifting from hospital to community roles will also require training and close performance management, he said. This could also mean not all nurses would receive incremental pay rises.
NHS East of England deputy chief nurse Sally Bassett said nurses could potentially “fund their own pay rises” by releasing efficiencies and being redeployed in the community.
She added: “We will need to be flexible and adapt to new ways of working.”
The eight “high impact” cost saving actions announced in October were a good start, she said.