Jeremy Hunt calls for multi-year deal on nurses’ pay

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt is calling for a multi-year agreement in negotiations on the 2018 pay round for nurses and other NHS staff, as well as linking any deal with reforms to boost productivity

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt. Picture: Alamy

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt is calling for a multi-year agreement in negotiations on the 2018 pay round for nurses and other NHS staff.

Mr Hunt has written to the chair of the independent NHS Pay Review Body (RB), which makes recommendations to the government on pay for different NHS staff groups, to formally commence the pay round for 2018-19.

The letter also repeats the controversial suggestion that a pay rise would only be funded in return for 'improvements to public sector productivity'.

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said the link between pay and productivity improvements was a 'concern' and said nursing staff could not be stretched any further.

Nurses may have to wait

The RCN and other unions have called for an above-inflation pay rise of 3.9% to address an estimated 14% real-terms pay cut nurses have suffered since pay restraint was introduced in 2010.

Chancellor Philip Hammond confirmed in his autumn budget in November that additional funds would be found to improve NHS pay after years of restraint that saw nurses’ pay rises capped at 1%.

Nursing Standard understands that nurses may have to wait until next summer to learn what the pay deal will be.

Ms Davies said: 'The NHS would grind to a halt without all the extra hours nurses already work – they should not be expected in effect to fund their own pay rise. A fair pay rise is vital not just for nursing staff but for patients and the NHS as a whole.'

Call to consider affordability

She also called for urgent clarification on any pay award in Northern Ireland, where nurses have not received a pay rise for 2017-18 against a backdrop of political turbulence in the country.

'In the absence of an assembly or direct rule minister, we call for urgent clarification about how a decision will be reached on the Northern Ireland pay round,' Ms Davies said.

In his letter, Mr Hunt asks the review body to 'consider affordability'.

He writes: 'The chancellor committed in the autumn budget to providing additional funding for pay awards for staff employed under the national Agenda for Change contract, provided the awards are part of an agreement with Agenda for Change trades unions about reforms to boost productivity.’

Entirely unacceptable

Mr Hunt adds: 'In considering future remuneration of these staff, I am therefore asking NHS Employers to continue exploratory talks with the Agenda for Change trades unions, with a view to the latter obtaining mandates to negotiate a multi-year agreement.

'Any agreed deal would need to be one that gives valued staff a fair pay rise alongside improving recruitment and retention and developing reforms which better reflect modern working practices, service needs and fairness for employees.'

Royal College of Midwives director for policy, employment relations and communications Jon Skewes said it would be 'entirely unacceptable' to ask midwives and other NHS staff to fund their own pay increase through cuts to their terms and conditions.

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