The new health secretary has suggested the coalition government will seek to review the Agenda for Change pay deal, after saying NHS staff pay should not be exempt from wider financial pressures.
In an interview on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme Andrew Lansley promised there would be real terms NHS budget increases but warned the NHS might face greater efficiency savings than planned and that pay would not be protected.
He said: “We need to change: so many people across NHS I’ve talked to understand this, and they actually say ‘we can’t go on like this’. There may have been in Agenda For Change a need for one-off increases in pay and comparability in the NHS, but that has happened.
“There is not now a basis upon which people in the NHS can expect that it is exempted from the kind of broader pressures,” he added.
He said the rate of inflation in the NHS had sometimes run at three times that of the private sector and that this was “not sustainable”.
He said: “People across the NHS know that after a decade in which there has been a decline in productivity and a rise in inflation in the NHS, then the time has come for them to achieve efficiency savings.
Mr Lansley said the planned efficiency savings of around 3 per cent a year needed to achieve £20bn of savings over the next three years would still need to happen. He added: “We may need to do more, because of increases in demand. ”
RCN chief executive and general secretary Dr Peter Carter said: “The RCN welcomes the commitment given by the health secretary to increase NHS funding in real terms over the coming years.
“Demand for health services is only going to grow and we need a properly resourced NHS to deliver safe and high quality care. We do also acknowledge that there will be tough times ahead for the NHS and we all have a part to play in ensuring we get value for money for our health spending.
“Nurses wish to work with the government to deliver fresh thinking on how savings can be made while protecting patient care,” said Dr Carter.