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Agenda for Change under threat from further dilution over next three years

  • 23 Comments

Further cuts to the Agenda for Change pay framework will be sought within the next three years, Nursing Times can reveal in the wake of the Chancellor’s announcement of a further squeeze on nurse pay.

Nursing Times has been told ministers and the NHS Employers organisation will seek further alterations to Agenda for Change, following the government’s spending review last week, which unveiled £11.5bn worth of public sector cuts.

George Osborne announced annual pay rises for public sector staff, including nurses, would be held at 1% in 2015-16. This will follow a 1% pay rise this year and in 2014 following two years of a pay freeze.

Nursing Times has calculated that a band 5 nurse starting on a salary of £21,388 in 2013 can expect to receive annual pay rises totalling just under £430 by April 2015 – not including incremental pay increases.

But incremental pay “drift”, according to NHS Employers, adds around 2% a year to trusts’ pay bills, with NHS staff receiving an average 3% increase. Around a third of staff receive no rise, as they are at the top of their pay bands.

The spending review document, published after the Chancellor’s statement to MPs, stated: “Most health staff will be subject to local performance standards which will link progression pay more closely to performance, not time served, and the government will seek further reforms.”

A Department of Health spokesman confirmed to Nursing Times that this was a specific reference to Agenda for Change and the framework would be kept “under review to ensure it is fit for purpose”.

In recent months Nursing Times has reported a growing appetite among NHS trusts to seek further savings from the one million staff linked to Agenda for Change.

Earlier this month a survey of NHS HR directors revealed overwhelming support for a further reduction in pay, terms and conditions with 95% calling for more action.

Meanwhile, in April the Foundation Trust Network, which represents 200 organisations, said it would seek a dialogue with members on the next steps for Agenda for Change.

This is despite the deal done in February between NHS Employers and unions, which links pay progression to performance and axed enhanced out of hours sick pay. Many employer organisations have said the deal did not go far enough.

Josie Irwin, head of employment relations at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “We always knew that employers would want to come back for more. I have no doubt they will be back however they have to remember any change has to be negotiated and they have to justify it and put the evidence forward.”

She said there were already numerous options for employers to save money if the implemented existing flexibilities. She said: “Employers need to stop whinging about Agenda for Change and do what they are paid for.”

Earlier this month Nursing Times reported predictions by the Centre for Workforce Intelligence that the NHS was likely to see a shortage of around 47,500 nurses by 2016.

Ms Irwin warned that continued pay restraint would impact on recruitment. She said: “There isn’t a linear relationship but it’s the whole context of pay plus the constant bashing by the government, the media and repeated service change. It is bound to have an impact on recruitment.”

But Anita Charlesworth, chief economist at the Nuffield Trust think tank, claimed nurses and NHS staff had enjoyed a better pay reward than the private sector since 2008 and, as a result, it was unlikely recruitment to the NHS would be a problem in the short term.

However, she was less sure about the long term, saying: “Pay up to 2015-16 should not result in significant recruitment and retention problems, but then there is a real question about after that and how sustainable that becomes.

“It will be difficult to hold down NHS pay relative to the private sector beyond 2015-16. That is a pressure coming down the road,” she added.

Ms Charlesworth said the emphasis on pay restraint was a “short-term fix” and the NHS needed to look at incremental pay, terms and conditions.

She added: “The pace of change needs to increase in the NHS, with a greater focus on longer term transformation. Without such a shift we are storing up financial risk and NHS managers will find it harder and harder to match rising demand to a stagnant budget.”

Gill Bellord, director of employment relations and reward at NHS Employers, said: “We will continue to talk in partnership about refreshing Agenda for Change, which itself contains provision for review. We anticipate that further changes will be needed between now and 2016.

“At the moment we are talking to employers about how they are implementing the recently agreed changes. These changes will help AfC to provide best value for patients.”

NHS Employers chief executive Dean Royles added: “Our biggest priorities must be maintaining and improving quality patient care and staff job security, both of which depend on sustainable pay bills and a focus on performance.”

 

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Discussion

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  • 23 Comments

Readers' comments (23)

  • "Josie Irwin, head of employment relations at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “We always knew that employers would want to come back for more. I have no doubt they will be back however they have to remember any change has to be negotiated and they have to justify it and put the evidence forward.”

    Just about sums the RCN up that, who are the RCN for as they certainly haven't got their paid-up members interests at heart!

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  • Anonymous | 2-Jul-2013 5:35 am

    Then the members should either tell the RCN what they want them to do and be prepared to back them up, or leave the RCN, join another union, tell them what they wantthem to do and be prepared to back them up.

    Neither of these will happen because nurses, whilst being happy to moan endlessly about their pay and conditions, are not prepared to do anything about it. We are the membership of the unions and we continually refuse to give them the mandate to act.

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  • This is a sad reflection on health care in Britain today. Many nurses at the top of their band are worse off than in 2008 due to no inflationery uplifts at all. Constant changes to tems abnd conditions.

    Why pay staff full pay including shift allowance when they are off sick, what incentive is there to work? However, the disillusionment prevailing in NHS currently is breading a 'sick staff' syndrome which will not change whilst there is perpetual squeeze. Politicians and seniors need to come down from their ivory towers and spend some realistic time both in public and privatre sector care areas before preaching to those who work in them around what they are worth. Fastly becoming sickended by the falling moral and standards in care.

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  • "Why pay staff full pay including shift allowance when they are off sick, what incentive is there to work?"

    Do try and keep up...
    This has gone and next to go will be increments. This will then be followed by enhancements for unsocial hours.

    Surely we must fight at some stage? Or do we just lie down and let the employers walk all over us?

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  • If the government wants to save money for the public purse, why don't they make do with no or 1% pay rise!!!!!!

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  • Why pay staff full pay including shift allowance when they are off sick, what incentive is there to work?"

    Do try and keep up...
    This has gone and next to go will be increments. This will then be followed by enhancements for unsocial hours.

    This has only happened in England and Wales. Scotland still pays sick staff enhancements unfortunately and that is why we have a real high sickness problem

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  • Peedoffnurse | 2-Jul-2013 1:17 pm

    The sickness rate for NHS staff in Scotland for 2012 was 4.43%. The sickness rate for NHS England for 2012 was 4.50%. Not much difference either way.

    If you don't want colleagues (or even yourself) to benefit from support during periods of illness, because you are just mean-spirited, then just say so. Don't try to skew the argument with false assertions.

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  • Anonymous, I was speaking of my own hospital and apologise if I got the numbers wrong but please dont get concern for those who are genuinely off sick mixed up with the opportunists who we all know and suffer. We never had a problem with night staff sickness or weekend sickness till they got their enhancements and now it is shocking. Coincidence?

    Dont be so gullable and grow a pair.

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  • Peedoffnurse | 2-Jul-2013 3:17 pm

    " Scotland still pays sick staff enhancements unfortunately and that is why we have a real high sickness problem."

    You didn't mention your hospital.

    The sickness absence rate has dropped in Scotland over the past year (only by 2.3%, but it is still a drop).

    Perhaps if you stopped being so gullible and looked for reasons (other than sick pay) as to why your hospital performs so poorly in sickness rates. There is good quality research out there. Why not take a minute to read it?

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  • ............because I am so busy due to the slackers you fawn over being off sick.........

    Do you honestly believe that this has had no effect on the sickness rate?

    Now that is gullable.

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