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Nurses face lower pay to fund government's regional plans


Nurses could face lower pay awards in years to come to help the government afford its plans for regionally aligned pay, it has emerged.

The Department of Health has published documents supporting a move to make the pay of NHS staff “more appropriate to local labour markets”. But health unions have repeated their opposition to any plans that would lead to reduced pay.

As previously reported, the NHS pay review body is due to report to the government in July on whether, and how, pay could be made more in line with private sector rates.

Evidence submitted to the review body by the DH today reveals that instead of imposing local pay scales at trust level, it hopes to keep the Agenda for Change national pay contract and instead graft new higher pay zones – similar to London weighting – onto the existing framework.

This would allow trusts in those areas to pay staff more. However, nurses working in other parts of England would suffer what the DH describes as “a prolonged period of constrained headline pay awards” to allow “headroom” for the extra zones to build up.

Initial suggestions are for one or two higher pay zones, with one option covering the south and areas around the London fringe, including Oxfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hampshire.

A second option includes two zones. This would comprise an area taking in parts of the Midlands and around Manchester and Leeds, as well as the zone covering the south and London fringe.

The DH said it thought its plans for “market facing pay” could start to be implemented as early as April next year.

It said: “Current rates of pay in the NHS do vary geographically, but significantly less so than the pay of comparable staff in the private sector. The introduction of more sensitive market facing pay would enable more efficient and effective use of NHS funds.”

Headline pay for nursing staff earning more than £21,000 has already been frozen in 2011-12 and 2012-13 – though this excludes incremental pay rises.

Health unions – including Unison, Unite and the royal colleges of nursing and midwives – issued their joint response to the review in March, calling for national pay rates to be retained.

Responding to the DH submission, Unison head of nursing Gail Adams said: “What will not work is any reduction in the level of earning. That’s where the problem will be.

“Nurses are already facing a pay cut, the government says it is a pay freeze but the reality is their cost of living, utility bills and mortgages etc have all gone up.”

RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “It remains our belief that a move to local pay among NHS staff will lead to damaging competition between trusts for staff, drive down pay in certain areas and risk lasting damage to staff morale and motivation.

“The current system is tried and tested. It ensures that employers in any part of the country can recruit staff with the right skills and experience to give patients the care that they need.”

Rachel McIlory, research and information officer at the RCN, said: “Basic pay will be kept down and there will be the introduction of a few more high cost areas supplements, but there is no money to pay for that in the short-term.”

She also warned that the introduction of the DH’s proposals could lead to recruitment and retention problems in those areas outside of the higher pay zones, in contrast to the government’s intention to improve it within them. “It could lead to problems on wards,” she told Nursing Times.

Ms McIlory added however that the government’s apparent commitment to continue with national pay bargaining for the time being was welcome but warned that unions were still concerned about the threat of local pay. “This is not as bad as we thought, but we can see the direction of travel,” she said.


Readers' comments (18)

  • Is there any limit to how much we are going to get shafted? Answer is no, because we don't take definitive action to stop it, and just take whatever is dished out.

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  • grumpy

    No there is no limit. The government will continue to shove its ideologically driven 'reforms' down our throat. Because they can and because we will let them.
    Unfortunately we seem incapable of making a stand for the future of nursing and patient care.

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  • About time full time staff should stop working bank shifts and extra hours at normal rates.
    If extra staff cover is needed, then you should be paid overtime, if you meet the criteria. I think its there in the contract, but as the NHS culture is so ingrained that staff work extra hours as bank, its no wonder overtime rates aren't paid. People already work unpaid time, by staying late, missing breaks, covering over people, etc.

    If transport and train drivers can demand higher pay and pay rates, better conditions, all in the name of passenger and staff safety - the same can be applied to healthcare staff. Would you want people who are paid peanuts and are possibly close to burnout to look after you when you are not well or would you want people who are well remunerated in providing a service which is good for society, rather than lining their own pockets.

    I can see people moving to higher pay areas to do the same jobs, leaving the lower pay areas worse off and with a health service in that area not fit to support the local population. Those that can't find work, if able, they might leave the profession or move abroad where our skills are valued in this global market.
    Sounds like more postcode lottery and those who can afford healthcare would have more chances of better health services. This is not what the NHS is about and with more things like this going on and on, care and compassion would get beaten out of the most caring staff. Lets hope it doesn't get that bad.

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  • Time to retire!

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  • If the NHS stopped wasting pay on sickness and crazy levels of annual leave we would all get a pay rise and have staff on duty!

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  • This is not news!!! Surely EVERY nurse must have realised that lower pay would be the reality of regional pay levels. This will mean lower pay just to meet the extortionate and unrealistic savings being meted onto the NHS. We must fight this move. I am not a militant person and certainly have never winged about my pay as I chose to become a nurse and love my job but this takes the biscuit. Since this Government came to power the NHS has been denigrated and denuded to an even worse state than it was before. What they really want is to privatise the Health Service through the back door by saying we are failing. Information about Voluntary redundancy has been sent around to everyone in the Trust this week. I am sure lots of managers will take it and then just get re-employed somewhere else as the remaining managers will not be able to cope and the whole rigmarole will start again. Or, of course they will get employed in the private firms that will soon take over the NHS. Bingo, I think that is it. Nurses being deemed 'essential' will not be able to take it but the strategy of not re-employing to vacant posts will continue which in my opinion, amounts to stealth redundency but with no pay-out which is of course the whole idea. let's slam the poorest paid. The articles i nthis week's I newspaper have been good but it still said that we are well paid. the majority of better paid bands do not represent the majority of the nursing workforce. A small proportion of Matrons, clinical nurse specislists, consultant nurses and the managers above. Whatever happens nurses will lose out, being the biggest workforce in the NHS therefore representing the easiest salary bill to slash. Doctors cost more but they are more powerful and to get rid of them is not so easy for this Government but having said that, even they are getting slashed by nurses taking more medical roles on for a smaller salary. (NB: Not that necesarily means less good though.)

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  • And what did you all expect to happen? The government knows they can get away with anything now so of course they will cut our pay! Yet nurses have noone to blame but themselves for their selfish, cowardly, spineless inaction. And it sickens me.

    But nurses already get vastly underpaid for the work we do. Any cut in that will be the final nail in the coffin for nursing. Who in the future will sacrifice and study for a three year degree for minimum wage when unqualified bin men and tube drivers can earn a hell of a lot more?

    I have recently left nursing and the nhs, a career that I once loved, because I was sick of the stress, the working conditions, the pay, and the complete inaction by my profession to stand up for themselves and fight for the nhs. It was the best decision I ever made and I am now much happier (and better paid ironically). However it was still a very difficult decision at the time; but if I was still working as a nurse and they said I would have to do the same job for a couple of quid less an hour, which WILL happen, my blind, head in the sand friends, then that would have made the decision for me instantly and I would have walked there and then.

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  • The bottom line is, frontline workers will lose out while the fat cats sit behind their desks and continue to earn the same.

    It makes me sick to read what I am reading. We all do the same job, so why should a nurse in one area get less than their colleagues doing the same job in another area.

    This really will be the downfall of the NHS. I am surprised that Landsley has agreed to go to congress this year, he is not going to be popular but as per usual all questions will be screened. Its ok for him and his colleagues who dont even know what it is like to be a NHS patient, they only have say they are an MP and they get what they want and a lot quicker than mr jo public.

    I hope for once the unions really stick their neck on the blocks and fight this one, I cant afford to lose anymore pay....

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  • I hope for once the unions really stick their neck on the blocks and fight this one, I cant afford to lose anymore pay....

    They have done. Its the membership that can't be bothered. the Pensions vote.....UNISON 21% RCN 16%. Apathy rules..............

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  • Anonymous | 13-Apr-2012 10:02 am

    I couldn't agree with you more. Well done for getting out with sanity and health relatively intact.

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