The new NHS pay deal unveiled today is “the best possible deal we could negotiate”, according to the Royal College of Nursing’s associate director for employment relations.
In an exclusive interview earlier today with Nursing Times, Josie Irwin said: “It is the best possible deal we could negotiate given the current climate.”
“It is the best possible deal we could negotiate given the current climate”
Details of the pay deal were officially unveiled today, with Agenda for Change staff to be offered an average 6.5% pay rise over three years, with many set to receive more than this under proposals.
Ms Irwin said: “It is £4.2bn of new money, which means the service will get all of that money for pay and there won’t be cuts in services or jobs to fund it.
“It means the starting salary for nursing staff will increase and we’ll see a band 5 nurse on the mid-point jump from about £24,000 to £30,000 over the three-year period,” she said.
She added: “All of the starting salaries are raised by about 12% and there is also an increase at the top of pay bands, so it is a good deal and the best we could possibly do for nurses.”
“There is now clear blue water between the top of one pay band and another so promotion means something”
Ms Irwin told Nursing Times that she hoped the deal would be welcomed by union members, who will now get to decide on whether to accept the proposals.
“One of the things we have tried to do with this deal is ensure that our members – nursing staff – feel valued,” she said.
“The fact the government has put £4.2bn into the agreement means that we can make those increases in between 9% and 29% for that 50% of staff who are in the middle of the pay bands now,” she said. “That is a significant cash injection.”
She highlighted that the new agreement was based on the existing Agenda for Change pay structure, but with some pay increments removed so promotion now “means something”.
“When we made our claim last year, we said we wanted inflation and we wanted an element of pay reform – this is the pay reform bit and what it does is it lifts the bottom up,” said Ms Irwin.
“It does that by removing the overlap between pay bands so there is now clear blue water between the top of one pay band and another so promotion means something – that will encourage retention,” she said.
She added: “It moves the bottom up, it moves the top up and the reform bit is about taking increments out, so that enables people in the middle to make a big jump so that’s why they get between the 9% and 29%.”
As a result of the proposed changes, the RCN negotiator said the new structure would mean nurses were able to move up the pay scale more quickly.
“Instead of eight increments in band 5, there will be three, so you come in at the bottom, stay there two years, you move to the middle and stay there for two years and then you go to the top. So it only takes you four years to get to the top on new higher rates of pay,” she said.
The agreement states that the new system will “help ensure that all staff have the appropriate knowledge and skills they need to carry out their roles” and puts an onus on employers to strengthen and improve the appraisal process.
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However, Ms Irwin said nurses would not be required to do anything extra to prove their abilities.
“The majority of nurses work really hard and do their job and they won’t have to jump through any more hoops – they will just be evaluated and measured on what they’re doing – all those skills all that experience,” she said.
Meanwhile, she said efforts to reduce levels of sickness absence would not result in a new “punitive” regime with attendance targets, and she was confident it was possible to bring rates down through improved support for staff health and wellbeing.
The government said in a statement on the deal today that employers and unions had also made a commitment to reducing sickness absence through a “better shared focus on staff health and wellbeing”.
Ms Irwin said: “It is not any of these horrible punitive schemes we have seen some organisations do, with set targets, it’s about recognising that – particularly in nursing – there are things like musculoskeletal problems and getting people to the physio quickly.”