Across the country, employers are discussing the financial challenge facing them in partnership with their staff and trade unions.
They are involving staff in the complex task of adapting service provision to patient needs, maximising efficiency and improving the quality of care through recognising and rewarding innovation and good practice.
With the pay bill making up around 70% of the average NHS organisation’s costs, it’s no surprise that staff terms and conditions are being widely discussed.
We know there are lots of support and ideas from staff on reducing costs and that they are keen to do so in the context of a national pay and conditions framework.
People also recognise that pay systems adapt over time, in light of changing circumstances. Indeed, throughout the history of Agenda for Change, there have been a number of revisions to the system, most often enhancing conditions for staff.
What is less publicly known is the very real commitment employers have to their staff. In particular, they want to use the new local education and training boards to invest in staff training and development. They genuinely want to improve the health and wellbeing of their staff and they want the flexibility to do this.
Pledges to staff are embedded in the NHS Constitution, as is a commitment to involve staff in decisions that affect them. Employers know that, to meet significant challenges ahead, staff engagement will be crucial. We have some difficult conversations ahead and being open is more likely to lead to solutions.
For some time, NHS Employers has been engaged in discussions with the NHS Staff Council about the changes needed to AfC to keep the framework sustainable for the future. The national staff side organisations are now consulting on employer proposals and this consultation is due to close at the end of July.
We welcome this important conversation with staff. It is vital that employers continue to engage with staff and local unions about the financial and productivity challenges facing them and the need for a pay framework that provides greater flexibility to help meet these.
Our proposals provide a clearer link between pay progression and performance – which is what staff tell us they want to see. They also ensure that staff are recognised and rewarded for their hard work and make adjustments to remove the unsocial hours payment that some staff receive during sickness absence. Our aim is to allow employers more scope to better reward good performance, productivity and contributions to the delivery of high standards of patient care.
Employers and trade unions in the NHS have a long track record of working together in partnership. The financial and quality challenges facing the NHS are widely understood by staff and their managers.
We all know that these are very sensitive issues for nurses, midwives and their unions and we know we have to talk about them. We hope that taking this constructive and transparent approach will enable a national agreement to be reached that is good for patients as well as staff and their employers.
It remains our view that local action outside a revised AfC framework is unnecessary. We believe that the best way of retaining the benefits of the national pay system is for the NHS Staff Council to agree changes to the national agreement along the lines of our proposals. The future of a national Agenda for Change agreement depends upon it.
- What do you think of the changes to Agenda for Change proposed by NHS Employers? Have your say at nursingtimes.
Dean Royles is director of NHS Employers