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NHS pay negotiations for 2018 underway alongside talks on contract changes

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The health secretary has written to the chair of the NHS pay review body triggering the start of talks on wage increases for nurses and other NHS staff, alongside potential contract changes.

The letter, sent by Jeremy Hunt today, reiterates that “affordability” must be considered by the body when it makes its recommendations on boosts to pay.

“Any agreed deal would need to be one that gives valued staff a fair pay rise alongside reforms”

Jeremy Hunt

In the correspondence to review body chair Philippa Hird, he underlined the previous commitment by the Treasury to allow for a “more flexible approach” to pay in 2018-19, in order to help tackle skills shortages and improve productivity.

The letter states that, while the chancellor has confirmed extra funding will be provided for a pay rise, it is on the understanding that there will be reforms to the NHS Agenda for Change pay system – which covers nurses, midwives and most other staff apart from doctors and dentists.

It reaffirms comments on the government’s ambitions for contract reform made by Philip Hammond himself in his budget speech on 22 November and then outlined in more detail by Mr Hunt in a recent interview.

These reforms should be designed to “boost productivity” and must inform the review body’s recommendations, stated the letter from Mr Hunt.

NHS Employers and trade unions had been asked to continue exploratory talks about the reforms, added the health secretary in the letter.

“Any suggestion that midwives, nurses and HCAs might need to give up the money they get for working weekends…and we’ll be back to square one”

Sara Gorton

Unions will be expected to negotiate a multi-year agreement on behalf of their members, he stated, adding that the reforms would need to “better reflect modern working practices”.

“Any agreed deal would need to be one that gives valued staff a fair pay rise alongside improving recruitment and retention and developing reforms which better reflect modern working practices, service needs and fairness for employees,” state the letter.

Unison’s head of health, Sara Gorton, who chairs the group of 14 health trade unions during pay negotiations, said it was pleasing to see talks could now begin.

Earlier in the year, unions had submitted a pay claim direct to the government because the pay review body had not started its work.

She said talks could now begin to discuss the “much-needed” review of the NHS pay structure and a “decent” rise in wages for staff, following seven years of pay restraint.

“But those talks won’t last long if the government is expecting NHS employees to pay for their own wage rise,” warned Ms Gorton.

“Any suggestion that midwives, porters, nurses and healthcare assistants might need to give up the money they get for working weekends or late at night in return for a pay increase and we’ll be back to square one before we’ve even got to the table,” she said.

The Royal College of Nursing said the link being made by the government between pay and productivity was a “concern”.

”Nursing staff cannot be stretched any further. The NHS would grind to a halt without all the extra hours they already work,” said RCN chief executive and general secretary Janet Davies.

Jeremy hunt new website

Jeremy hunt new website

Jeremy Hunt

”Nurses should not be expected in effect to fund their own pay rise. A fair pay rise is vital not just for nursing staff, but for patients and the NHS as a whole,” she said.

Ms Davies added that the RCN was concerned about the lack of clarity over pay in Northern Ireland, where nurses had not seen wages increase this year.

“In the absence of an assembly or direct rule minister, we call for urgent clarification about how a decision will be reached on the Northern Ireland pay round,” she said.

Jon Skewes, director for policy, employment relations and communications at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “The need to fund fair pay for NHS staff is now well overdue. Anything less than a fair pay rise at a time of increasing staffing shortages in the NHS is reckless.”

“The RCM together with other NHS trade unions are calling for a pay rise in line with RPI inflation (3.9%) and an additional uplift of £800 to restore the loss of pay over the past seven years of pay restraint,” said Mr Skewes.

He added: “We welcome the commitment made by the chancellor in the budget to fund a pay rise for midwives, maternity support workers and other NHS staff following an agreement reached in negotiations between employers and the RCM and other NHS trade unions.

“We think that there are ways the pay structure can be improved and made fairer, but we are clear that it is entirely unacceptable to ask midwives and other NHS staff to fund their own pay increase through cuts to their terms and conditions,” he said. 

Both sides are understood to have previously been discussing potential changes to the contract, including increment pay points and pay bands, with talks ongoing since the industrial action in 2014 amid previous concerns about proposals for seven-day working.

However, the discussions had stalled due the previous absence of an offer of any new money for pay increases above 1% – a barrier that had seemingly now been lifted.

Labour health spokesman Justin Madders said: “The government say they want to see workforce reforms made to increase productivity, but they’ve said nothing about what changes they want made, what level of pay rise staff can expect to see, or whether a pay rise will be applied across the board.

“NHS workforce shortages are getting worse by the month and it is patients who are paying the price,” he said. “The government should immediately commit to giving all NHS staff the pay they deserve so they can do the best possible job for their patients.”

  • 8 Comments

Readers' comments (8)

  • Government talking about productivity and changes to agenda foe change. As the article suggests the hidden agenda seems to be to take our un social hour pay away. So again a kick in the teeth for over stretched hard working tired staff.
    I for one would vote to strike if that is put forward. It's a back handed slap to say we can have a pay rise but only
    it if we loose un social hours pay.

    How twisted .

    The pay rise would be publicised in all press, whilst the changes to contract proposed would be slid by with as little publicity as possible.

    If that happens nursing would be unviable as a career choice for many.

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  • In private sector we don’t get extra for working weekends or nights, we get 4 weeks holiday and the only benefit we get is a meal at work.
    Welcome to our world.

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  • So teachers have an offer on the table with an increase in december and further increase early next year. No changes to their contracts, productivity and holidays?! Why are nurses being victimised and why are our unions not more effective in negotiating for us?

    No one should be expected to work unsocial hours without recompence, whichever sector they work in. We give up our family time, miss special moments, damage our health by working shifts overnight. We do this for our patients!!

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  • Public sector nurses enjoy long holidays, inflated wages for working at weekends and nights, subsidised meals, parking have money paid into their pensions (which are miles better than other people’s.i am being provocative but if we go on strike over changes to agenda for change the news headlines will turn us into grasping villains really fast.

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  • To the 2 comments
    1 regarding`WELCOME TO MY WORLD` just because private sector pay and conditions are not in line with nhs doesn't mean NHS should be brought down , Here's a thought BRING UP THE PRIVATE SECTOR PAY.

    I REMEMBER WHEN PEOPLE FOUGHT FOR OTHERS RIGHTS FOR BETTER PAY AND CONDITIONS . WHAT HAPPENED? THERE HAS BEEN A VERY CLEVER DIVIDE AND CONQUER RIGHT ACROSS THE COUNTRY. ALL I CAN SAY IS GOD SAVE US , BECAUSE WE WONT SAVE THE NHS

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  • I agree that the private sector pay should be brought in line with NHS because it would increase my salary and benefits, and that's before you get a pay rise! Realistically, NHS staff are paid above workers in the private sector who perform an equivalent role because staff in the private sector work for businesses. And you had better believe the Conservatives are running the NHS as a business. Regarding the comment above, with people fighting to raise the pay of others, no-one has ever fought for nurses pay to be increased. When the police earned double their salary at Christmas, did anyone say, nurses should earn the same? No, they didn't. Have teachers ever come out and said nurses are professionals and should be paid accordingly? No, they haven't. I could go on. Nurses will never, ever earn what they are entitled to in this country because they will not strike. Some years ago, nurses in Australia went on strike and it took only a few hours before the government caved.

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  • If we do get portrayed as grasping villains, so what. Bankers, lawyers etc already are, but there is still extreme competition to get into those jobs. Good money takes the sting out of being called grasping. Who cares what people say when you ride to work in a well soundproofed Rolls/Maserati/Bugatti etc etc.

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  • If they cut weekend and night pay be many more leaving nhs ,I for one and many more will join agency

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