NHS managers have signalled they will seek to use the recession to try and dismantle the current nurse pay structure.
They have called for a “fundamental review” of nurse pay, claiming they will have to shed posts if pay goes up after 2011.
Chief executive of University College London Hospitals Foundation Trust Sir Robert Naylor said every 1 per cent extra on NHS staff pay would need to be balanced by the loss of 10,000 posts.
He said: “It’s unrealistic for staff and the public to think there will be pay rises for staff, given the economic circumstances.”
Sir Robert added there also needed to be a “fundamental review” of the Agenda for Change pay framework which was introduced between 2004 and 2006.
Newcastle Upon Tynefoundation trust chief executive Sir Len Fenwick agreed. “It’s been weighted very much towards the staff end rather than an opportunity for change in working practice, modernisation and productivity,” he told Nursing Times.
He added that too many job descriptions and profiles had been “tweaked” to move staff up a pay grade.
The director of another foundation trust said there was too much onus on moving staff through the periodic “gateways” which determine whether staff can move on to a further set of increments.
Managers have told Nursing Times they will attempt to limit the proportion of staff moving through their gateways in future, as a way to limit the pay bill. Around 60 per cent of nurses are due to move up an increment in April, giving them an increase around 1 per cent on top of the 2.25 per cent headline increase due under the three-year pay deal.
But Unison head of health Karen Jennings said that discussion over poorer pay versus job losses was “premature”. She said: “It’s a shame managers want to start looking at old fashioned ways of penalising the work force when they really need to be talking to them about how they can make savings in a cost effective way.”
She accused managers of “sabre rattling”, and said it would do nothing to help improve productivity.
Nursing unions submitted joint evidence to the independent NHS Pay Review Body last week in support of implementing the final 2.25 per cent increase of the multi-year pay deal. A ‘reopener clause’ in the deal means the Pay Review Body can recommend that negotiations are restarted to adjust pay increases in line with the state of the economy.
This time last year, unions had called for the clause to be triggered, arguing that the NHS would face a recruitment and retention crisis if it did not improve the deal during the credit crunch. However, the further worsening of the financial climate since then has left the current pay deal looking better for staff than those in other sectors.
Former health secretary Alan Johnson said in April that the final year of the deal would be honoured.