A move to local pay for NHS staff would lead to damaging competition between trusts for workers, entrench low pay in certain areas and further erode morale, health unions warned last week.
They made the claims in evidence submitted to the NHS Pay Review Body, which has been asked by the chancellor, George Osborne, to look at the feasibility of local pay bargaining.
Calling for the retention of the national pay scales, the unions said the current system prevented staff and skills shortages, and ensured staff were paid and developed in a “transparent, equitable and efficient manner”.
The submission – made jointly by Unison, Unite and the royal colleges of nursing and midwives – stated that abandoning national pay risked “lasting damage to staff morale and motivation, and to recruitment and retention”.
RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “A move which could see two nurses doing the same job but with a wide disparity in their pay could seriously short change patients in those areas which do not pay appropriately.”
Unison head of health Christina McAnea described local pay bargaining as a “shortsighted and potentially disastrous policy”, while Unite’s head of health, Rachael Maskell, said it would require a “new expensive layer of bureaucracy”.
But NHS Employers, which represents NHS organisations, said in its evidence to the review that greater flexibility to vary pay could lead to more efficient use of the “unaffordable” NHS pay bill.
It noted there was “limited appetite” for full local pay bargaining by individual trusts, because of the likelihood of increased administration costs. Instead it suggested regional pay bands, such as “London weighting”, could be extended to different areas.
Dean Royles, director of the NHS Employers organisation, said: “Over half of all NHS spending is on pay, so reducing cost and ensuring greater productivity is a priority if the NHS is to achieve its target of £20bn in efficiency savings.”
- The review body last week recommended NHS staff earning £21,000 or less – and therefore not affected by the two-year pay freeze – should receive a pay rise of £250 from April.