NHS reliant on unpaid overtime and goodwill of staff, review body says

Pay Review Body says staff will struggle to cope unless changes are made

Pay Review Body says staff will struggle to cope unless changes are made

Picture shows a model posing as a tired nurse in a hospital at night. Pressures facing nursing remain a particular concern and the health service is relying on unpaid overtime and the goodwill of the wider workforce, a report says.
Picture: Alamy

Pressures facing nursing remain a particular concern and the health service is relying on unpaid overtime and the goodwill of the wider workforce, a report says.

The independent NHS Pay Review Body (PRB), the organisation that makes recommendations to UK governments on pay for health service staff, says staff will struggle to meet service demands unless there are changes.

In a report the review body voices concerns about the effect of nurse vacancy rates and falling numbers of applicants for nursing degree courses, particularly mature students.

‘Rising demand for services will continue to impact on Agenda for Change staff through increased workload, additional paid and unpaid overtime, an increased need to cope with vacancies and a growing reliance on the continued goodwill of staff,’ the report says.

‘The trends in the nursing workforce are a particular concern, with increasing nursing vacancy rates and substantial declines in the number of people applying for nursing degrees in the last two years, in particular from mature students,’ it says.

RCN calls report ‘top reading’ for new cabinet

RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said the report should be ‘top reading’ for any new ministers this week after Boris Johnson forms a new cabinet following his election as Conservative Party leader.

Professor Kinnair said: ‘In this report, neutral advisers are putting on record their concerns about mounting pressure in the NHS workforce.

‘The report notes yet again the fact that the NHS relies on the willingness of staff to do unpaid overtime, and that should never be the case.

‘The evidence they present here must mark a moment on the way to a meaningful future pay rise.’

The Pay Review Body was not asked to make any pay recommendation this year as a three-year pay award was agreed in 2018 under Agenda for Change, the pay and grading system for NHS staff, covering nurses and other staff in England, Scotland and Wales. A separate pay deal was agreed for staff in Northern Ireland for 2018-19.

Nurses’ salaries have lost value

In its report for this year the review body instead focused on the implementation and effects of the pay deal.

It found that starting salaries for nurses had lost value between 2009 and 2017 compared with inflation, but some of that value had been recovered as a result of the pay agreement.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: 'The NHS Long Term Plan has set out a strategic vision of how we will transform the healthcare system to provide more integrated, multi-disciplinary and person-centred care. 

'Last year we provided over a million AfC staff with a thoroughly-deserved pay rise and through our Interim NHS People Plan we are taking forward immediate actions to make the NHS a better place to work and secure the staff we need for the future.'

Further information

Read the latest NHS Pay Review body report

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