After months of intensive negotiations between union and employer representatives, the NHS Staff Council has signed off a framework agreement for investment in and reform of the NHS pay structure.
Employers and trade unions have been calling for the end of the government’s 1% pay cap for some time, and this is now being delivered in the NHS.
“After seven years of pay restraint, this is good news for around one million NHS employees”
Importantly, the government has said that additional funding will be provided to the NHS to fully fund the increases in the pay bill over the three years, so it won’t have to come from existing NHS budgets.
After seven years of pay restraint, this is good news for around one million NHS employees who are under the Agenda for Change system.
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The fact that the agreement on the framework has been reached is a great example of the benefits of constructive partnership working between employers and trade unions in the NHS, and the ability to reach compromise through discussion.
Trade unions will now be consulting their members on the proposed agreement and the outcome of this is expected in early June.
We have in our discussions found a balance between rewarding people who are in post now and attracting colleagues to work alongside them over the longer term.
“We have found a balance between rewarding people in post now and attracting colleagues to work alongside”
The agreement will also provide much needed clarity for employees and for employers over the next three years.
If the three-year agreement is accepted, starting salaries will be higher and current nursing and midwifery staff will be able to reach the top of their pay bands faster than before, which is both fairer and will help to make these roles more attractive for people developing a career in the NHS.
For example, a new band 5 nurse currently takes seven years to reach the top of the pay band. Under the new deal it will take them four years – and from a higher starting salary – if they meet required standards.
Experienced staff at the top of their pay bands will also receive overdue increases to pay.
Staff at top of their band in pay bands 2-8c will get a 6.5% pay rise over three years, with 3% payable in 2018-19.
Part of the agreement is a commitment by all parties to work together to develop and agree further improvements, which should help to make the NHS a better place to work.
This includes enhancing shared parental leave, child bereavement leave, and a national framework on buying and selling leave.
“There is no magical solution that will solve all the NHS’s staffing problems and there is still much”
There will also be a programme of work to improve the health and wellbeing of staff to improve attendance levels and reduce sickness absence, and I describe one of our suggestions for that work below.
Improvements to pay and conditions are a good and really important start. But there is no magical solution that will solve all the NHS’s staffing problems and there is still much, much more to be done.
The recent statements by Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt with regards to the longer-term funding of social care and health give us some cause to hope for much needed investment in our services and patients, particularly for our elders and those citizens with mental health needs.
At the same time, there is much more that can be done now to improve working conditions. Employers accept that there is more for us to do in our own organisations but would also welcome national support in important areas.
That’s why on behalf of employers across England, we have highlighted some key actions that need to be urgently taken at a national level to support employers and our teams, especially in clinical practice.
“Starting salaries will be higher and current staff will be able to reach the top of their pay bands faster”
These include reinstating of continuing professional development (CPD) funding, flexibilities in the way the apprenticeship levy is used, and a more supportive immigration policy from the Home Office.
We’ve also proposed that the government and NHS formally approve priority access to health treatment for NHS employees where their occupational health specialist believes this would get them back to full health sooner or prevent their absence.
These steps, if taken by the government, would alongside the lifting of the pay cap and action by employers, help attract, recruit and retain NHS employees.
If the government can then deliver sustained investment, we will be able to properly use the talented people who care for our communities and ensure a health and social care system fit for the 21st century.
Danny Mortimer is chief executive of NHS Employers