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”
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”.