Department of Health advice emphasises 1% cap on NHS pay rises

Government rejects targeting wage increases higher than 1% to specific staff groups 

Pay rises for NHS nurses in England should be capped at 1% in 2016/17, the Department of Health argues.

In its evidence to the independent body that recommends NHS pay levels, the DH claims further increases are unaffordable, and reaffirms its intention to remove automatic incremental pay progression in Agenda for Change (AfC) and to link it more closely to performance.

The Treasury has said it can only afford an average public sector pay rise of 1% per year until 2020.

Nurses last received a pay rise greater than 1% – 2.5% in 2010.  

RCN head of employment relations Josie Irwin said: ‘[The DH’s evidence] is miserable reading but we expected pay restraint to continue. It is amazing the NHS keeps on going while staff are experiencing all these pressures yet are not being rewarded what they should be.’

In its evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body (RB), the government said the AfC pay structure should be reformed to ‘remove the expectation of [incremental] progression regardless of performance’.

The DH reiterated its commitment to extending plain time working – hours when AfC staff are paid their basic salary and do not receive any unsocial hours premiums – ‘to help employers ensure they can afford to roster the right staff at the right times across seven days’.  

The DH evidence reveals that the government has not pursued its wish to vary pay increases across professions or bands to aid recruitment and retention.

In a letter to the RB in November, parliamentary under secretary of state for NHS productivity Lord Prior of Brampton invited the RB to consider if pay increases could be targeted. 

But the DH has rejected this proposal and said all AfC staff should get a 1% consolidated increase.

Its report said: ‘We do not believe there are significant recruitment and retention challenges that would be resolved by awarding more than 1% on a staff group or regional basis.’

It added that targeting the pay award to certain staff groups would not improve motivation of the AfC workforce as a whole.  

Unite national officer for health Barrie Brown said NHS unions are in agreement that the 1% increase in 2016/17 should be across the board to ensure fairness for all staff. 

Mr Brown said talks between the unions, the DH and NHS Employers about AfC reform have slowed down while the junior doctors’ contract dispute is ongoing.

He added that the organisations will look at how the pay scales can be simplified so they comprise fewer increments. 

The RB has also received remit letters for the 2016/17 pay round from the Scottish and Welsh governments.

The RB plans to publish a report with its recommendations for all three countries by the end of March.

Read the DH report here


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