Inflation has reached its highest level in four years, further eroding 1% nurse pay rises, while the chief inspector of hospitals has said more money needs to be put towards ”properly rewarding” NHS staff.
Figures announced today by the Office for National statistics show inflation – as measured by the Consumer Prices Index – reached 2.9% in May, far outstripping the 1% pay rise that Agenda for Change staff received at the same time.
“Our hardworking nurses and teachers are long overdue a pay rise”
In response to the inflation report published by the ONS, Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, said it was time to “lift the artificial pay restrictions in the public sector”.
“Our hardworking nurses and teachers are long overdue a pay rise,” she said.
The Royal College of Midwives described the rise in inflation as “yet another blow to hard-working midwives and other NHS staff”.
Staff had “suffered years of pay freezes and pay restraint”, meaning many were now “many thousands of pounds worse off”, noted RCM director of policy, employment relations and communications Jon Skewes.
“It outlines even more why this government need to remove the 1% pay cap they have imposed on NHS staff, so that we can see our midwives rewarded fairly for the work they do,” said Mr Skewes.
“It’s not good enough though just to discontinue the 1% pay policy for the NHS,” he said. “Improved pay must be funded, increases will need to exceed inflation and the NHS Pay Review Body will need to be enabled to deal with the catch up.”
“The NHS needs more money and part of that is going to be needed for staff pay”
The figures come on the same day that the Care Quality Commission’s chief inspector of hospitals said in an interview that NHS staff “need to be properly rewarded”.
Sir Mike Richards, however, caveated his comments on pay by adding that quality improvement and “cultural change” could also happen quickly under good leadership and staff engagement.
The chief hospital inspector was speaking to coincide with the publication today of a CQC report on trust improvement, which shows that “discretionary effort” from staff has helped trusts to improve.
“The NHS needs more money and part of that is going to be needed for staff pay but, despite the pay restraint that we have seen over the past few years, improvements have been seen,” he told Health Service Journal.
He highlighted University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust as an example of “discretionary effort”, in which staff had made improvements through their own choice.
“Encouraging, rewarding and engaging staff improves quality, safety and outcomes for patients”
He cited a quote in the report from Phil Woodford, associate director of corporate affairs at Morecambe Bay, which said: “We have the staff and the talent. It’s about freeing them to do more.”
The regulator’s new report – titled Driving Improvement – focused on eight trusts that have improved their CQC rating by one or two levels between inspections.
It highlighted a correlating improvement in the staff survey, with five of the eight trusts reporting a 9-11% increase over two years in the number of staff that would recommend their hospital to family or friends.
In addition, four of the case study organisations saw a 10-11% improvement over two years in staff recommending their trust as a place to work.
But Sir Mike said, while trusts had shown that during a period of pay restraint they can improve staff job satisfaction, “that does not mean that staff don’t need to be properly rewarded – of course they do”.
NHS pay was frozen in 2012 and 2013, and since 2014 remuneration rises for Agenda for Change staff have been limited to 1%.
In addition, Sir Mike said the report also showed “cultural change can move really quite quickly”.
“It doesn’t have to take decades, which is what used to be said a couple of years ago,” he said, but added that quick change depended on trust leadership “listening” to staff.
He said: “However much governance you put in you won’t get improvement… unless you have got your staff engaged in this.”
The report’s authors interviewed leaders and staff from eight trusts that had shown significant care quality improvement. It found that leadership, shared values, good governance, recognition that improvement was warranted and formal quality improvement programmes were common themes.
RCN Congress 2017
Responding to the report, the Royal College of Nursing said: “We welcome the recognition from the CQC that listening to staff makes this change happen more quickly and support the call for staff to be ‘properly rewarded’ after years of freezes.
RCN chief executive and general secretary Janet Davies said: “The report confirms what we knew to be the case – that encouraging, rewarding and engaging staff improves quality, safety and outcomes for patients. Staff should be supported with continuing education and development.
“Mike Richards is right to say the NHS needs more money from the new government – including for staff pay – and the RCN will campaign on this.
Ms Davies noted that the college would soon launch a summer-long protest – agreed at this year’s RCN congress – calling on the government to scrap the 1% pay rise cap.
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“A pay rise that is deliberately held below inflation is in fact a pay cut,” she added.
Also commenting on the CQC’s findings, health service ombudsman Rob Behrens said: “It is good to see how these NHS trusts have empowered staff to learn from mistakes to improve services.
“It shows that encouraging patients to speak up when things go wrong and taking complaints seriously can lead to improvements in care and prevent similar problems in the future,” he said.
The eight hospital trusts covered in the CQC report are:
- Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust
- Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
- East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust
- Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust
- Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
- Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust
- University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust
- University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust