Nurses and midwives are to receive a 1% pay rise in April, after the government accepted recommendations for the salary increase made by the independent body that advises on NHS pay awards in the UK.
It means all NHS staff in England on Agenda for Change pay bands – including nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants – will receive the increase for 2016 to 2017, dependent on whether unions also accept it.
“It’s disappointing that the PRB has stuck to the artificial 1% freeze imposed by the chancellor”
It follows an announcement last summer by chancellor George Osborne that it was his intention that pay rises for public sector workers in England would be restricted to a maximum of 1% for the next four years – and comes shortly before his next budget statement on 16 March.
However, the NHS Pay Review Body said its recommendations were “informed but not constrained” by public sector pay policy and ongoing affordability pressures.
It said it accepted all NHS providers were under financial pressure and that “some form of pay restraint is inevitable”.
A prolonged period of lower pay settlements did not appear to have resulted in widespread recruitment and retention issues, said the body, noting a backdrop of low inflation rates and a “modest” economic recovery.
The Scottish government and Northern Ireland Executive have also both accepted the recommendation for a 1% pay increase. A spokesman for the Welsh Government said it was considering the review body’s recommendations.
Scotland’s health secretary Shona Robison described the salary boost as “modest”, but noted it followed cuts to the country’s budget by the UK government.
Northern Ireland’s health minister Simon Hamilton said: “This will be challenging in what are tough budgetary times but I am clear that it is an appropriate award for our hard working staff, who I am sure will warmly welcome this decision.”
But unions have described the decision as “disappointing” and said the boost did not make up for shortfalls in NHS pay over the past few years.
Unison said the 1% pay increase falls “way below what health workers need and years after years of pay cuts”.
Christina McAnea, Unison head of health, said: “It’s disappointing for NHS workers that the PRB has stuck to the artificial 1% freeze imposed by the chancellor.
“A 1% award does not make up for the shortfall in the pay awards over previous years”
“Government pay policies since 2010 have seen most health staff lose thousands in real terms – nurses are down more than £4,700 since then,” she said, adding that the union would now consult its member on the 1% pay rise.
Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “It is encouraging that the government has accepted the PRB’s recommendations but the fact remains that pay awards for NHS staff since 2010 have been severely constrained.
“Nurses have been telling the Government that they are struggling to make ends meet, and are asking themselves if they can afford to continue nursing,” she said. “Their warnings have repeatedly fallen on deaf ears.
“More and more nurses and health care assistants are being forced to consider their future in the profession that they love. Nurses cannot afford for this to continue, and neither can the health service,” said Ms Davies.
George Osborne 182
The Royal College of Midwives said that while a 1% salary boost recognised the hard work and dedication of NHS staff, it was “not good enough”.
Jon Skewes, director for policy, employment relations, policy and communications at the RCM, said: “A 1% award does not make up for the shortfall in the pay awards over previous years, when the government have ignored the PRB recommendations.”
“We need to see the government let the PRB operate independently and make recommendations based on the evidence and the real cost of living, without restraint, and not constrained by the government’s public sector pay policy, as is still the case,” he added.
Unite assistant general secretary for public services, Gail Cartmail, claimed “hardworking and dedicated” public sector workers were “whipping boys” for the government’s austerity agenda.
“It is small wonder that the NHS staff are leaving the health service for better pay and work/life balance either in the private sector or abroad,” she said.
She added: “As a consequence, billions of pounds are being spent on agency staff to plug the gaps. This is no way to run the NHS.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “It is thanks to the care, quality and dedication of NHS staff we are beginning to deliver a safer seven-day NHS for patients.
“And in line with the rest of the public sector, we are pleased to announce that all NHS staff will receive a 1% pay increase next year,” she said.