Ministers from Scotland and Wales have pledged to invest additional money they receive from the UK government into NHS staff wages, following the announcement of pay proposals on Wednesday.
The Scottish government has already pledged to at “least match” the deal being offered in England, while ministers in Wales have promised to invest the extra funding they will receive into staff pay.
“Staff groups covered by this agreement will be paid at least as much as their counterparts in other parts of the UK”
However, health service nurses working in Scotland and Wales will now wait to see whether they are offered a pay deal that is precisely in line with that in England – or slightly different.
The UK government, employers and unions yesterday announced that they had negotiated a pay deal for NHS staff on Agenda for Change worth at least an extra 6.5% over three years, with around half of workers set to get more due to reforms to the contract itself, which revolve around changes to pay bandings.
On Wednesday, the Treasury also committed to fully funding the proposed £4.2bn deal in England, if it is accepted by union members in consultations over the coming weeks, rather than the NHS.
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As a result, under Treasury rules – known as the Barnett Formula – additional money will be allocated to the devolved governments based on population size to spend how they see fit.
Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “I very much hope the devolved governments will follow suit with this deal.”
Responding to the proposals, Scottish health secretary Shona Robison said: “It is my intention to use any Barnett consequentials that come here as a result of this pay deal to invest in a Scottish pay agreement.”
She added: “We’re now working with NHS Scotland staff representatives and health boards to quickly take forward pay discussions.
“We have been clear that we will ensure nurses, support staff… and all other staff groups covered by this agreement will be paid at least as much as their counterparts in other parts of the UK,” she said.
“We’ll be working to reach a Scottish agreement as soon as possible and pay uplifts will be paid at the earliest opportunity,” said Ms Robison.
She highlighted that this agreement would include staff receiving retrospective payments to reflect the value of the uplift backdated to 1 April 2018.
In response, RCN Scotland director Theresa Fyffe said: “We strongly believe that maintaining pay, terms and conditions across the UK is best for the future of our National Health Service.
“Failure to do this will have a significant impact on recruitment and retention in NHS Scotland,” she said in a statement.
“We welcome the Scottish government’s decision to open negotiations on NHS pay,” she said. “Like them, we want to move quickly and we will be working hard to secure the best deal for our members.”
She added that the RCN would be “pushing” the Scottish government to agree a pay offer “as quickly as possible” to allow consultation with members to take place during April and May.
“I am happy to confirm that any consequential for NHS pay will go into NHS pay here in Wales”
An almost identical statement was also released by the director of RCN Wales, Tina Donnelly.
Under the three-year deal, Wales can expect to get around £210m extra funding from the Treasury based on the Barnett Formula.
Vaughan Gething, health and social services secretary for Wales, said he welcomed the pay deal offered in England but did not disclose what might be offered in turn to Welsh NHS staff.
However, Mr Gething pledged in the Welsh assembly that extra money passed on by the Treasury would go into NHS pay and highlighted the last seven years of pay restraint in the health service.
He said: “I am pleased the UK government has listened to my repeated calls to lift the public sector pay cap and provide additional funding to reward NHS staff across the UK.
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“But there are some significant challenges, which we should not forget, that face partners in the NHS and other public services who still face a realistic pay cap as a result of years of austerity.
“We should remind ourselves that, for Agenda for Change staff, it’s been a real-terms pay cut of 14% since 2010,” he told the Senedd.
“So the move that England has announced will go some way towards resolving that and I am happy to confirm that any consequential for NHS pay will go into NHS pay here in Wales,” he said.
He added that the NHS Wales Partnership Forum would be meeting today in order to “offer advice on how any consequential could be used in Wales”.
Northern Ireland will also get extra funding via the Barnett Formula, but the situation is complicated by a continued absence of Stormont ministers.
It was only announced in December that NHS nurses and other health and social care staff in Northern Ireland were to finally receive the 1% pay rise due them for 2017-18.
The salary rise, delayed by the ongoing political turbulence, comes after civil servants determined public sector pay policy for 2017-18 in the absence of elected ministers, who would normally decide policy on pay.