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Unions slam call for NHS body to consider UK debt in 2023 pay award

Health and social care secretary is ‘in denial’ of unrest over nurses’ current pay offer, says RCN, as he urges consideration of government’s inflation targets

Health and social care secretary is ‘in denial’ of unrest over nurses’ current pay offer, says RCN, as he urges consideration of government’s inflation targets

Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay has been described as being 'in denial’, after he initiated next year’s pay review with calls to consider ‘the government’s inflation target’.

Yesterday Mr Barclay wrote to the NHS Pay Review Body (RB) , which advises on pay for NHS staff on Agenda for Change contracts, stating the government must strike a careful balance between recognising the value of staff and avoiding further debt.

NHS Pay Review Body asked to consider UK debt in its 2023-24 recommendations

The RCN said the letter shows

Health and social care secretary is ‘in denial’ of unrest over nurses’ current pay offer, says RCN, as he urges consideration of government’s inflation targets

Photo of health and social care secretary Steve Barclay
Steve Barclay Picture: Alamy

Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay has been described as being 'in denial’, after he initiated next year’s pay review with calls to consider ‘the government’s inflation target’.

Yesterday Mr Barclay wrote to the NHS Pay Review Body (RB), which advises on pay for NHS staff on Agenda for Change contracts, stating the government must strike a careful balance between recognising the value of staff and avoiding further debt.

NHS Pay Review Body asked to consider UK debt in its 2023-24 recommendations

The RCN said the letter shows signs the government will not budge on its pay strategy, adding that ‘radical change’ is needed.

Mr Barclay wrote: ‘Pay awards must strike a careful balance – recognising the vital importance of public sector workers while delivering value for the taxpayer, considering private sector pay levels, not increasing the country’s debt further, and being careful not to drive prices even higher in the future.

‘In the current economic context, it is particularly important that you also have regard to the government’s inflation target when forming recommendations.’

Mr Barclay added that he wanted to get the pay timetable ‘back to normal’ and would expect a report for the 2023-24 pay round by April, ready for the start of the next financial year.

This year, the RB’s recommendations were not announced until July, after months of delays.

Letter disregards nurses’ current pay struggles, says RCN chief

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said: ‘This letter suggests the government is in denial. Ministers are in a rush to talk about next year when hundreds of thousands are saying they need action immediately and are struggling to live on the current pay award.

‘The letter sends concerning signs that the government has not yet heard the voice of our members, with plans to keep to the same NHS budget and curtailing the pay process to stay below inflation and give more real-terms cuts. The challenge is not so much a ‘careful balance’ but the need for a radical change of course.’

Unison head of health Sara Gorton said the government should be concerned with the current NHS pay offer. ‘NHS services are in a dire state, with too few staff to deliver safe patient care,’ she said. ‘That’s why hundreds of thousands of NHS employees have either voted to strike over pay and staffing or are currently doing so.

‘Rather than pretending the NHS isn’t on the verge of a damaging dispute, the government’s focus should be on how to keep experienced staff in their jobs. They can do this with a wage rise that better reflects the harsh economic reality for working people.’


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