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Conference told that downbanding staff is 'scourge' of health service


Union members have voted to investigate the practice of downbanding nurses and other health service workers by trusts looking to make financial savings.

At Unison’s healthcare conference in Liverpool, members said it was unacceptable that some NHS workers were reporting being expected to work at a lower pay band while still carrying out the same – or in some cases more – duties.

“Many NHS trusts see down banding as way to meet their cost improvement programmes”

Linda Hobson

They also said that once a role had been attached to a specific Agenda for Change pay band, employers should not be allowed to reduce the job’s responsibilities purely to fit into a lower pay bracket and achieve efficiency savings.

Members said some employers were not complying with the set of Agenda for Change rules – known as Annex X – brought in for England in 2013, which state that if downbanding occurs, workers should see their duties reduced too.

Linda Hobson, from Unison’s northern regional heal committee, who moved the motion, told delegates: “Many NHS trusts see downbanding as way to meet their cost improvement programmes.

“This is why we have Annex X,  but conference, many activists are still reporting that downbanding – or ‘workforce re profiling’ – is finance driven rather than service improvement led,” she said.


She added: “We believe the time is right for us to look at the practice of downbanding across the whole of the UK and the impact on our members.”

Ms Hobson said the downbanding of specialist nurses, healthcare assistants and other workers threatened the quality of care and services they provided and that it was now necessary to “call time” on the practice.

Supporting the motion, George Barron, from the union’s healthcare service group executive, said downbanding was the “scourge” of the NHS.

“Downbanding only applies to a certain amount of people in the NHS. The tragedy is it applies to people delivering frontline services – nurses, porters, catering staff,” said Mr Barron. 

“I’ve never yet heard of one chief executive or director of finance being downbanded,” he added, to a round of applause.

The motion to review downbanding across the NHS in the UK and to try to prevent the practice from happening was carried overwhelmingly.

Speaking last month at an election hustings event hosted by the Royal College of Nursing, health minister Dr Dan Poulter said that downbanding was “unacceptable”.


Readers' comments (6)

  • michael stone

    Just as well Dr Poulter is 'on the case', then - I'm confident he will [probably not] put a stop to this !

    See the top one of the 'linked articles' in the list above right, for Dr Poulter's contribution.

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  • Downbanding defeats the whole "equal pay for equal value" principle which drove Agenda For Change. While it may be necessary for organisations to restructure skill mix on occasion (though there does seem to be less desire to "restructure" executive and non-executive director pay, where of course it is important to get the right kind of candidate...) it is not honest or fair to describe jobs in a particular way for banding purposes and then expect far more. The best defence against that if it is attempted is via a robust adherence to the job evaluation principles as laid out in the JE handbook and which after all should still be delivered in partnership. If asked repeatedly to take on duties in addition to those in your JD it should be your right to have the job given the scrutiny of a job matching or evaluation panel.

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  • I can honestly say in the foundation trust I work in this has been the norm.
    Many, many staff have been down-banded in one form or the other over the previous 18 months, they re-apply for essentially their own jobs and if 'lucky' enough to get one eventually as has happened in most if not all of the work areas end up doing exactly the same job in some cases significantly more, this whilst chief executives and their entourages salaries regularly exceed that of the prime ministers...the reason often given for this is "we need the best people for the job, and that means offering salaries inline with the private sector"
    Is it not important then to have the 'best people for the job' when face to face with the public and not the cheapest or the ones who are so tired of constantly being at risk of organisational change or having been re-banded, having lost their work colleagues, having seen them leaving in tears, having heard management screaming at them down the phone because a target that won't be important in 6 months time hasn't been met? aren't these people important too?

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  • What I don't understand is why when agenda for change was implemented admin staff came under the same umbrella When we fought for a fairer system clinical staff should have been treated separately. I personally known 3 admin staff whom don't deal with the public on band 5 and 7's. Their responsibilities no where equate to clinical staffs. In the private sector they would be earning a lot less. There would be more in coffers for clinical staff if this huge anomaly had been foreseen in the planning stages My friends acknowledge their salaries are jammy! And no weekends BH to boot so unfair

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  • michael stone

    'though there does seem to be less desire to "restructure" executive and non-executive director pay, where of course it is important to get the right kind of candidate...' oh, you cynic, Phil !

    Is there a tie or something, for those of us in that particular club ?

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  • michael stone | 16-Apr-2015 1:43 pm

    stop trolling here, there and everywhere!

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