NHS pay: start talks on 2024-25 deal in autumn, ministers urged
Direct talks between nurses, employers and the government is the only way forward, claims Unison, as it brands NHS pay review body system a failure
The government should agree to start discussion on next year’s NHS pay award in the autumn and negotiate directly with unions and employers, it has been claimed.
As the NHS marked its 75th anniversary, Unison called for the government in England to scrap the NHS Pay Review Body (RB) process and instead hold direct talks with unions and employers on pay as soon as possible.
The union, which represents 400,000 UK health workers including a proportion of nursing staff, said the move would show NHS employees the government is committed to solving what it calls the staffing emergency.
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NHS pay review body process is inflexible and takes too long
Its head of health Sara Gorton said: ‘The pay review body process is long past its use-by date. Ministers initially refused to engage in pay negotiations with unions and employers last year, insisting the review body was the only way. That led to months of industrial unrest that benefitted no one.
‘The review body was meant to take the politics out of pay and avoid strikes. It’s failed on both counts’
Sara Gorton, head of health, Unison
‘Put simply, the pay review body process takes too long, and isn’t nimble enough to keep up with rapidly changing economic circumstances. It leads to health workers in England missing out. And as pay is so key to solving the NHS staffing emergency, it means patients lose out too.’
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Government review of the RB
As part of the 2023-24 NHS pay deal agreed in May, England’s health and social care secretary Steve Barclay promised to review how NHS salaries are set. Last month he asked unions and employers to give feedback on the RB process, and Unison argue that while it is being reviewed the RB should not be commissioned to look at pay again for 2024-25.
The RB makes recommendations to government on annual pay rises for NHS staff on Agenda for Change contracts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. A number of unions, including Unison and the RCN, have already said they will not submit evidence to the body this year.
The Scottish Government opted out from the NHS pay review body process in 2018 – as a pay deal had already been determined for that year – and later made clear it would no longer be engaging with it in 2021. Agenda for Change staff there who are at the top of band 5 now earn £3,000 more a year than their counterparts in England.
Ms Gorton added: ‘The review body was meant to take the politics out of pay and avoid strikes. It’s failed on both counts. Direct talks involving unions, ministers and employers are the only way forward.’
The Department of Health and Social Care told Nursing Standard it will review timing and the RB appointment process, taking into account the views of unions and employers.
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