Unison has called for an “inflation busting pay uplift” for nurses after the current two-year pay freeze comes to an end.
Submissions to the NHS Pay Review Body also warn pressure on wages will impact on recruitment and retention of staff – although officials insist the picture “remains very healthy”.
The NHS Pay Review Body is expected to make recommendations on the pay deal for health service staff in February.
As expected, the Department of Health has proposed freezing salaries above £21,000 in 2012-13, and awarding a flat pay rise of £250 to all earning less than that amount. The measure would contribute to the second year of a two-year pay freeze across the public sector.
Sara Gorton, Unison’s national officer for health, told Nursing Times that staff wanted their contribution to the financial challenges faced by the NHS to be acknowledged.
She added that although it would be “unexpected” for the review to recommend breaking the freeze in 2012-13, “we make a strong case for an inflation busting pay uplift once the pay freeze is over.”
According to a survey submitted by Unison as part of their evidence to the review 47% of nursing and midwifery staff reported a drop in the quality of patient care on offer.
In the NHS as a whole, 65% saw a decline in the number of staff at their workplace, while 59% were dealing with more patients.
The Department of Health’s submission to the review, published on 3 October, says “recruitment difficulties are not expected” as “demand growth for Agenda for Change staff will fall over the next year.” It adds: “Indeed, the recruitment and retention of Agenda for Change staff is not seen as problematic in the short-term even if earning growth picks up in the private sector.”
However, staff representatives disagree. The Royal College of Nursing submission said the freeze would impact on recruitment and retention and “would weaken comparability with similar jobs outside the NHS”.
Evidence submitted by staff side said continued erosion of pay was “unsustainable”.