The body representing all major health service employers is to call for the NHS pay freeze to be extended into a third year to “protect services and minimise job losses”.
NHS Employers is to ask the Doctors’ and Dentists’ Review Body to extend the freeze for a further year and will subsequently recommend pay is frozen for all groups of NHS staff, Nursing Times’ sister title Health Service Journal has learnt.
Across the public sector the government had indicated it would allow a below-inflation 1% increase. However, in a move set to anger nurses and other staff, it is understood NHS Employers will say such an increase is not needed in the NHS when workers continue to receive automatic incremental pay rises under Agenda for Change rules.
Pay constitutes approximately 70% of NHS trusts’ budgets, with a total of £22.6bn being spent in 2011-12. A 1% increase would therefore add a further £226m to the overall bill.
NHS Employers will also tell the review body that incremental “drift”, where staff progress automatically through pay bands, adds around 2% to each NHS trust’s pay bill.
In total the two year pay freeze between April 2011 and March 2013 was predicted to save £3.3bn by 2014-15.
NHS Employers will tell the review body that the “current national pay and conditions arrangements are increasingly not affordable for employers” faced with improving patient care while achieving efficiency savings.
It will add: “There is no evidence from employers that any increase in the national scales is necessary for the recruitment, retention or motivation of staff.”
The news is likely to increase tensions between NHS Employers and health unions, which are engaged in national negotiations to alter Agenda for Change.
Union leaders have already threatened to walk away from the talks after a group of 20 trusts in the South West formed their own consortium to consider breaking away from the national framework.
In 2010-11 NHS Employers tried to negotiate a national deal with unions to freeze increments in return for no compulsory redundancies but the offer was rejected.
The Department of Health and unions are expected to make their submissions to the review body before the end of the month.
Public sector pay is in the spotlight at this week’s Labour conference in Manchester, where party leader Ed Miliband and shadow chancellor Ed Balls provoked union anger by backing the current pay freeze.
Unison head of health Christina McAnea accused NHS Employers of “petty scaremongering”.
She said: “It’s time for employers, and the body that represents them, to get real. Staff are really struggling; their pay has been frozen for two years while their pension contributions have increased and the cost of living has soared. At the same time they have been coping with a massive reorganisation of the health service.
“There are long term financial issues that have to be addressed – procurement and the cost of pharmaceuticals to name but two – but this won’t happen until employers stop dodging the issue, and stop trying to make short term savings on the back of staff.”