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Growing doubts about how nurse pay offer will be funded

Government will not increase its spring budget to pay for it, raising concerns the money will be taken from existing NHS budgets, impacting on patient services and care quality
Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay says funding for nurse pay offer will be ‘a matter for the chancellor’

Government will not increase its spring budget to pay for it, raising concerns the money will be taken from existing NHS budgets, impacting on patient services and care quality

The government will not be investing any more money in the new NHS pay offer, contrary to pledges to unions before negotiations.

On Thursday the government and health unions announced they had agreed a breakthrough pay deal for nurses and other staff on Agenda for Change contracts, which will include a one-off ‘backlog bonus’ and a 5% pay increase next year.

Government will not increase its spring budget to pay for it, raising concerns the money will be taken from existing NHS budgets, impacting on patient services and care quality

Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay says funding for nurse pay offer will be ‘a matter for the chancellor’
Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay says funding will be ‘a matter for the chancellor’. Picture: Alamy

The government will not be investing any more money in the new NHS pay offer, contrary to pledges to unions before negotiations.

On Thursday the government and health unions announced they had agreed a breakthrough pay deal for nurses and other staff on Agenda for Change contracts, which will include a one-off ‘backlog bonus’ and a 5% pay increase next year.

Last month the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) recommended that NHS staff should get a pay rise of 3.5% in 2023-24. But with no more money outlined for the NHS in the spring budget, the funding for the extra 1.5% agreed is unclear.

Government says it will find the money ‘elsewhere’

On 17 March, the DHSC confirmed to Nursing Standard that the government will not be increasing its existing budget and they will be working with the Treasury to find the money ‘elsewhere’.

Following the pay offer announcement, health and social care secretary Steve Barclay said: ‘Obviously how these things are funded are a matter for the chancellor.

‘We have been very clear in terms of the discussions we have had with the trade unions that this will not come from patient-facing aspects.

‘Of course we will look at areas of underspend, areas of administrative saving and discuss these things with the Treasury in the usual way.’

This is at odds with what health unions were told before entering into negotiations, with Unison stating on 3 March that its decision to enter pay talks was taken after the DHSC ‘confirmed there would be additional investment in pay for both this year (2022-23) and next (2023-24).’

NHS does not have money ‘just lying around’ to fund pay offer

Without additional funding, policy experts have warned that money for pay rises may have to be taken from existing NHS budgets, which would put added strain on already stretched services.

The government said in its statement on pay that it can ‘guarantee that there will be no impact on front-line services or the quality of care that patients receive as a result of this pay offer’.

While members of unions prepare to vote on the new offer, the NHS Confederation warned that the health service does not have money ‘just lying around’ to fund the pay offer.

NHS says extra funding may impact negatively on patient care

NHS Confederation chief executive Matthew Taylor told Channel 4 News: ‘The government has said in its press release that the cost of this will be met without any impact on patient services or quality of care. Well, that’s a good guarantee. And we’ll want to see that being delivered on in the next few days.

‘There’s no way that the NHS can find one-and-a-half, two billion, two-and-a-half billion pounds without an impact on patient services or quality of care. We don’t have that money just lying around. It’s going to be difficult enough to meet our targets and meet demand as it is.’


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