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Scrapping pay cap will help tackle staff shortages, Pay Review Body told

Scrapping the 1% nursing pay cap will help to tackle staffing shortages, the government has told the NHS Pay Review Body

Scrapping the 1% nursing pay cap will help to tackle staffing shortages, the government has told the NHS Pay Review Body

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The 1% nursing pay cap will be scrapped to help tackle staffing shortages, the government has told the NHS Pay Review Body (RB).

In written evidence to the RB, the Department of Health and Social Care says  ‘greater pay flexibility, in return for improved productivity, may be needed to address recruitment and retention problems’.

The document, published last week to inform the Agenda for Change pay deal for 2018-19 acknowledges that an increasing number of nurses are leaving in most areas and the number of applicants to nursing courses has dropped since the bursary was removed.

Public sector pay needs to be more flexible while being fair and affordable, according to the evidence.  

This reaffirms the sentiments of health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt’s letter to the review body in December.

Pay rises

Earlier this month (Jan), NHS Digital said that one in 10 nurses are leaving the NHS in England each year.

The RCN, which has been campaigning for a ‘meaningful’ pay rise for nurses, has said that 40,000 nursing jobs are unfilled. Years of below inflation rises has seen nursing pay fall in real terms by 14% since 2010, the college says.

The number of nurses and health visitors has increased by almost 4% overall between 2012 and 2017, the government says, but acknowledges more needs to be done to stop nurses leaving.

‘There is now widespread recognition that greater attention is needed to better support and retain the current NHS workforce,’ the DH evidence says.

The number of nurses and health visitors quitting their jobs for work life balance reasons has almost doubled, from 3,170 to 6,049, between 2012-13 and 2016-17.

Skills gap

The evidence says that efforts including return to practice courses for nurses, more funding for placements for nursing students and a push for more nursing nursing associates and nursing apprenticeships are helping fill the skills gap. 

Pay has been consistently higher in the private sector than public services, but the value of the NHS pension is an important part of the overall remuneration package, according to the government.

The department’s evidence to the RB makes clear that any agreement will be on the condition that the pay award enables improved productivity.

Writing last week about the beginning of discussions between the government and unions on NHS contracts, RCN associate director for employment relations Josie Irwin spoke out about the push for greater productivity.

 ‘We need to dispel the government’s argument of productivity,’ Ms Irwin wrote in a blog on the RCN website. ‘It’s clear nurses can’t work any harder.’

The department, in its evidence, reiterated that its main target in these contract discussions is incremental pay. It seeks to ‘remove overlapping points, shorten pay scales, and reform the bottom pay bands in anticipation of the impact of the National Living Wage’.


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