The health service’s efficiency chief has said it is “disappointing” that only one foundation trust has so far moved away from the Agenda for Change pay framework – and added that nursing jobs will change “radically” in the coming years.
Jim Easton, the NHS Commissioning Board’s director for improvement and transformation, made the remarks in an online seminar organised by Nursing Times’s sister title Health Service Journal.
Mr Easton, a former chief executive of York Hospitals Foundation Trust, said: “It has been interesting for me how few foundation trust have used their freedoms to try and find new ways of negotiating contracts.
Although foundation trusts are free to enter into local pay agreements, so far on Southend University Hospitals Foundation Trust has done so.
“I think it’s disappointing,” Mr Easton said. However, he added: “I think we’ll continue to see pressure [on pay] on both fronts, both on a nationally negotiated deal, and with more people wanting flexibility locally.”
In addition, Mr Easton said “proper application of technology” should enable the NHS to cut staff costs and provide care closer to home.
“I would be delighted if we could keep all our current nurses in post, but if we do that we need people whose jobs are radically different,” he said.
Mr Easton also revealed that “pretty intense negotiation” was ongoing around pay and increments at a national level between the Department of Health and unions.
The discussions were “around getting the Agenda for Change package right, in a way that’s fair, and respects the way people came in but also recognises the times we’re in”, he said.
“I think the public thought that when we froze pay, we froze pay - not that there continued to be significant increases.”
Mr Easton said: “I’ve personally been working with national trade union colleagues on seeking to get agreements, to be honest to have further pay constraint, to allow us to protect jobs.
“The way we’ll make sure we’ll protect people in employment on the front line is by change and taking a hard line on basic pay.”
He also praised work on patient safety being done in Scotland, and said the NHS in England must be more prepared to learn from best practice being developed