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Government negotiating on employment contracts for one million NHS staff


The government is having “constructive” negotiations with NHS staff unions, with a view to reforming the Agenda for Change contract framework, health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.

In an interview, he said ministers were keen to achieve changes to contracts for the one million staff on Agenda for Change contracts, which would “improve contracts for staff”.

“We are having very constructive talks with the Agenda for Change unions”

Jeremy Hunt

Mr Hunt said he was not looking for his “next big battle to fight” over contracts, and that he was saddened by the “wholly avoidable” damaging dispute with junior doctors.

The health secretary accepted there was a real issue of morale in the NHS as a result of the dispute and strike action by junior doctors. “Any time there is an industrial dispute there is a very big impact on morale,” he told Nursing Times’ sister title Health Service Journal.

“Morale impacts on quality of care, yes,” he said. “That is why the changes that we want to make to contracts are things that will improve quality of care and morale.

“The trusts that are meeting the four clinical standards for seven-day hospital care are trusts that have some of the highest morale in the NHS and… delivering better care for patients,” he claimed.

Mr Hunt also said: “The organisations that complain loudest about morale falling are sometimes the organisations that have been responsible.”

The NHS Employers organisation, which negotiates on behalf of the government, has been in talks with both medical consultants and Agenda for Change unions. 

Jeremy hunt new website

Jeremy hunt new website

Jeremy Hunt

Mr Hunt said: “We are having very constructive talks with the consultants’ committee and Agenda for Change unions, because what we are looking to do are not changes that will be negative for NHS staff. They are actually changes that will improve contracts for staff.

“One example is to improve what we do on flexible working,” he said. “These are things that will keep people in the workforce, stop people feeling they have to become locums or work for agencies and will improve care for patients.”

Talks over Agenda for Change contracts are widely expected to include negotiation of anti-social hours payments, which are likely to be controversial.

Regarding the dispute with junior doctors, the health secretary said: “It is not the case that I sought out that confrontation or that I am looking for the next big battle to fight.

“It is incredibly sad that we had to have that battle, it was wholly avoidable and I hope we can work much more constructively in the future with other groups representing the NHS workforce,” he said.


Readers' comments (13)

  • I guess we're going to lose our anti social hours

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  • Sure, its the Junior Doctors striking that has hit NHS morale.

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  • this guy is an utter disgrace to the health sector. He and his party are the reason for low morale in the NHS.

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  • If they are going to try and stop us having our unsocial hours payments then we all need to stand together and do something about .

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  • John you beat me to it. We need to strike. Simple as. And i will leave a vocation I love if they take our unsocial enhancements.

    I am a healthcare who relies on those enhancements to live a basic life. I have applied to do my nurse training and this with the abuse from patients and their relatives, I am saddened that I wonder if I'm doing the right thing.

    I am, but I truly hope we all stand United and not allow this insult to us and our profession.

    Last time I looked up the legalities of a contract I was lead to believe a contract was an offer, not an enforcement. Remember that when they are bullying us with this.

    Jeremy, you are a total Hunt but you have picked the wrong fight this time.

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  • Well it was only a matter of time! The Government went after students then the doctors now the rest of us. Low moral can it go any lower?? yes it can and the Tories are the reason for it!!! Well I think 99.9% of the profession would strike and I for one will fight to keep my head above water as the nursing pay is a disgrace considering what we go through to get it!!!

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  • Jeremy Hunt failed in his attacks on the BBC an even older institution than the NHS. I have recently had to use the services in CGH in Essex, and would suggest placing the Trust in a position where it will be merged with Suffolk, post the CQC recommendations this year, as a result of institutional bullying would create an environment of uncertainty over the future of jobs. Bullying is a top down process, and i call on Hunt to go now. He has lied to the commons health select committee, Resign!

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  • Hunt has an... interesting definition of what "negotiating" is. Only a fool would sit down with him at this point.

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  • so that will mean- no holidays, longer hours , less pay

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  • Anonymous 2:30 AM , I also have experience of Colchester General Hospital and I am worried for the motivations behind the merger, they want us to believe it is for the best, but have yet to articulate exactly how having the ipswich board manage it instead is any better.

    My strong feeling it is that the merger is a solely political decision, not to improve patient care at either hospital, but to formulate a number of 'footprint' chain hospital management systems as the 'sustainability and transformation plans' suggest, removing less layers of resistance (i.e. any boards which do not toe the privatisation model) whilst making them easier to sell to private providers when it comes to it.

    The Chief executive of ipswich is as neoliberal as they come and should not be in charge of dispensing plasters let alone the patient lives that rely on colchester and ipswich hospitals. However, he will toe the tory line exactly as they expect him to so he is perfect for the job.

    On the outset of this proposed merger, he is already on record blaming nurses as individuals for the failings at colchester. Abhorrent.

    Colchester +/- Ipswich will deteriorate even further than they are already, the former closing beds now, I suspect losing crucial services to Ipswich in the near future.

    Please don't fall for the mergers being in our best interests, they are not. There is research out there that shows no benefit of trusts which have been merged in the past, so this decision is purely political instead of evidence based.

    the merger is a massive scam, and we will all suffer until we can get this government out of office asap, and apply the NHS reinstatement bill, before it's too late.

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