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DH proposes dilution of unsocial hours payments for nursing staff


Nurses could in the future see their unsocial hours payments reduced or removed altogether under government proposals to make the NHS in England a “seven-day service”.

Ministers want to modify the current system for unsocial hours payments, which they claimed is “out of date” and created a “potential barrier” to providing affordable care at the weekends and in evenings.

Last autumn the DH asked the NHS Pay Review Body to look into “affordable out of hours working arrangements”, as part of wider plans to reform Agenda for Change.

“If these extra payments are cut, not only would staff suffer directly but it would also be difficult for the NHS to get cover for evenings and weekends”

Christina McAnea

In its submission to the review, published last week, the Department of Health claimed around £1.8bn per year was spent on unsocial hours payments to non-medical NHS staff.

It has put forward six options. These include eliminating the payments altogether, although an additional 10% of salary would be paid for night shifts falling between 8pm and 6am.

Lowering unsocial pay rates for Sundays and bank holidays is also being considered, “to bring the NHS more in line with other sectors”.

Another suggestion is to retain the payment, but give all staff the same rate. Currently unsocial hours remuneration is calculated based on a workers’ salary band.

Removing Saturday as an eligible day for unsocial hour payments and pushing back the time from which this money can be claimed during a night shift – from 8pm to 10pm – has also been mooted.

Another approach suggested by the DH, and inspired by practices used at car breakdown firm the AA, would see out-of-hours payments calculated depending on how flexible staff are.

Its final option is to revise progression pay within Agenda for Change contracts to make it “fairer, more competitive, more attractive to employers and new starters, and more rewarding to staff who excel in their role”.

Unions have criticised the proposals, claiming the government is trying to prevent health workers from earning the extra money that they rely on.

Unison head of health Christina McAnea said: “If these extra payments are cut, not only would staff suffer directly but it would also be difficult for the NHS to get cover for evenings and weekends.”

The Royal College of Nursing warned the changes risked making NHS an unaffordable career for many nurses and healthcare assistants, and accused the government of being “utterly reckless” in light of current NHS recruitment problems.

Unions and the organisation NHS Employers will also make submissions to the review body before it publishes its final recommendations.

However, the DH said it did not believe unsocial hours payments were in themselves necessary to recruit and retain the staff the NHS required or that they led to better patient care.

“Indiscriminate use of premium pay rates at levels which may be higher than is necessary to attract and retain staff, and which are not aligned to patient need, could act as a barrier to sustainable seven day services and service innovation,” it said.

A DH spokesman said: “In the 21st century NHS we need patients to get the same high-quality care every day of the week - the need for care is not limited to office hours.

“This will speed up diagnosis and discharge and reduce the amount of time patients spend in hospitals.”


Readers' comments (43)

  • speechless !

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  • How can they not think unsocial hours help to retain and attract staff! :do they not realise we have a recruitment crisis and are constantly trying to recruit nationally and internationally for quality staff?
    If this happens there will be more unfiltered posts which include unsocial hours.

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  • As a nurse about to return to practice, Im extremely concerned by this news. I've made the decision, to come back turning my back on a well paid job to come back to a profession I love, and fully realised there would be sacrifices, however, given the current, and envisaged severe shortage to nursing numbers, I think this is the worst news I've heard. I understand the idea is to attract people who want to become nurses for the right reasons but we all have to live. I left when I was a single parent due to wages back in 2007, and only returning as I now have a husband supporting me. However I could not have afforded to otherwise (having paid for the RtP, placement, and loss of wages for now 6m) I think it's utterly disgraceful that such highly skilled, and qualified staff can be paid so poorly. Many have several degrees, and it's quite insulting. I hope I do not find myself having to leave the profession again, along with a number of others who may have no choice financially. Bet those who make the decisions, won't see a decrease in pay!!!

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  • For how long the frontline staff in NHS have to work harder in order to pay for the haemorrhage of so many managers and other non-frontline staff and their decisions?
    If these people in the DH will think that something like this it will be possible for ever they are definitely wrong.
    These managers might need to come on the wards and help the nursing staff in their mundane jobs of taking care of patients and have a reality check.
    Perhaps will be necessary for the Government to put a final stop to the "revolving doors" in the NHS with disastrous managers leaving a job and popping as good managers in another part of the same system.
    Perhaps the DH will be able to tell us how much costed covering shifts with agency staff.
    These are good ways of saving money.

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  • The current pay for nurses is already very low in comparison to many other professions. I have also left a well paid job to train as a nurse, I believe I have transferable skills to offer the NHS, whilst training I am having to live on next to nothing, and trying to work to make ends meet. If this goes ahead I am sure many students will be reevaluating whether the amount of personal effort and sacrifice is really worth the final financial reward at the end. How on earth does this help with the current recruitment crisis that many trusts are facing.

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  • it was only a matter of time and it wont stop there

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  • Lol, that's all, another reason to leave this profession

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  • I wonder how much those in the NHS Pay Review Body were paid themselves for the joy of looking at the way the AA workers are paid, and why they thought that could possibly have any bearing on what nurses do. Perhaps they believe caring for human beings is on a par with caring for a car?

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  • well as a student I can say I have no intention to work long term in an NHS who does not respect or value its nurses. As soon as I can I'm going somewhere else, namely another country that pays triple these rubbish wages. They can't even retain the international staff they recruit - no wonder. They honestly have no clue. Who in their right minds will volunteer on bank to do nights if there is no extra money? And in some hospitals nights nurses are mainly bank! This will affect patient care because their will not be enough staff!!!

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  • Having just completed a Return To Practice course and got my PIN number I am very glad I did not consider NHS as a potential employer.
    I am going straight into the private sector!I am joining a professionally run, caring company that values its' staff so highly it has won major awards for employee satisfaction quite a few years running.I will be able to look after my patients with the resources I need, and the time to really make a difference. :)

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