NHS nurses and other staff in the health service could be set to receive a 6.5% pay increase over a period of three years if they sacrifice a day of holiday, according to reports.
The multi-year pay deal being considered by ministers would see NHS staff on Agenda for Change contracts receive a 3% wage increase in 2018-19, followed by a rise of between 1% and 2% in the two years after, the reports in the national media claim.
“The RCN has been part of pay talks alongside all NHS unions. They are ongoing and have not concluded”
The government is expected to put forward the proposal to staff later this month, according to The Guardian newspaper, which claimed the deal was worth £3.3bn.
As has been reported by Nursing Times, NHS nurses and other non-medical staff have become increasingly frustrated at having their pay frozen or restrained since 2010, more recently due to a public sector pay cap that limited annual wage rises to 1%, since 2015.
In the autumn last year, the 14 health unions that negotiate pay on behalf of staff, including the Royal College of Nursing and Royal College of Midwives, called for a 3.9% pay rise – in line with inflation – plus an £800 lump sum.
Later in 2017 the government confirmed it would remove the 1% cap – originally due to be in place until 2020 – but that any salary increase for NHS staff would have to be tied to contract changes. It also said it wanted to look at a multi-year deal.
Unions, employers and the government have all submitted evidence to the independent NHS pay review body, which is meant to assess the arguments and then recommend a figure for salary increases. However, the contract changes and multi-year deal are being negotiated separately by the interested parties.
- Treasury needs convincing of ‘meaningful’ pay uplift, says RCN
- Unions demand 3.9% pay rise for NHS plus £800 lump sum
- Starting gun fired on nurse pay and contract change talks
The RCN told Nursing Times today that the pay talks were “ongoing” and that once an agreement had been finalised it would put the offer to its members.
“The RCN has been part of pay talks alongside all NHS unions. They are ongoing and have not concluded,” said a spokesman for the union.
“Once there is agreement in principle – and the Treasury commits to fully fund it – our members will decide if any deal is acceptable,” he added.
However, fellow union Unite claimed the details of the proposed deal revealed in The Guardian article were “incomplete, unconfirmed and inaccurate in part”, though it did not go on to explain how.
Unite national officer for health Sarah Carpenter said: “Unite, along with fellow NHS unions, has been closely involved with these pay talks since December and we are very close to a final position which we will be putting to our members for their consideration.
“Unite will be working really hard to ensure that the details of the proposed package are finalised and – more importantly – keep the pressure on the government to confirm the funding so that we can finish the talks and ensure that the final details go to our membership for their views,” she said.
She added: “I want to reassure our members that they will not be asked to make any final decisions until they have the full package about how any proposals will affect them.”
Jon Skewes, director for employment relations and communications at the Royal College of Midwives, highlighted that unions “were working hard to get a good deal for our members and for our NHS”.
“There is a possible agreement on pay in sight and when that has been agreed we will be consulting our members,” he said, but added that it “does not help to speculate on rumour and whispers in corridors”.
“It is important now that the RCM, our colleagues in the other health unions, and the Government focus on settling this pay deal, and when we know what the full and final offer is, take that to our members in the NHS,” he said. “I hope that we can all make that announcement soon.”
NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, said if reports of the 6.5% deal across three years were true it would be “vital” that the government provided additional funding for the entire period so trusts were not left funding it themselves.
“If true, it is encouraging to hear good progress is being made towards a pay deal that more fairly rewards NHS staff,” said NHS Providers deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery.
“Trusts have long told us that the continuation of the pay cap was damaging their ability to recruit and retain staff,” she said. “And growing dissatisfaction over pay was one of the key findings of the NHS staff survey, published this week.
“However, there are some key concerns to be addressed. The government has promised that the extra costs of funding the increase will be fully funded. It is vital that this covers the full term of any agreement, which is reported to be three years,” she added.
Ms Cordery stressed that additional funding should also be provided to NHS services commissioned by other bodies – such as health visiting and school nursing services, which are commissioned by local councils.