Editorial

Jeremy Hunt's annual charade makes a mockery of the pay process

The 'independent' NHS Pay Review Body is shackled by the government yet again.
Jeremy Hunt

The 'independent' NHS Pay Review Body is shackled by the government yet again

Imagine if someone paid you for some expert advice, but before you had the chance to say anything they told you what that advice should be. Pointless? I would say so. You might be inclined to take the money, but would be entitled to question the sanity or motives of the person handing over their cash.

This is the position in which the NHS Pay Review Body (RB) finds itself. Year after year it has been told in advance by the English government that it must recommend a rise worth little or next to nothing. Its expert members spend a few months weighing up the options before producing a report that delivers what ministers expect and NHS staff have little choice but to accept.

Clear instruction

Last week the recently reappointed health secretary

The 'independent' NHS Pay Review Body is shackled by the government yet again

Imagine if someone paid you for some expert advice, but before you had the chance to say anything they told you what that advice should be. Pointless? I would say so. You might be inclined to take the money, but would be entitled to question the sanity or motives of the person handing over their cash.

This is the position in which the NHS Pay Review Body (RB) finds itself. Year after year it has been told in advance by the English government that it must recommend a rise worth little or next to nothing. Its expert members spend a few months weighing up the options before producing a report that delivers what ministers expect and NHS staff have little choice but to accept.

Clear instruction

Last week the recently reappointed health secretary Jeremy Hunt played out the first act of this annual charade by writing to the RB with a clear instruction – you will recommend a rise of 1% to take effect on 1 April 2017. His letter added that similar edicts will be issued every year until 2020.

Until now the RB has – reluctantly – done the government’s bidding and accepted its well worn line that public sector pay restraint is necessary given the precarious state of the nation’s finances. But my understanding is that the RB is reaching the end of its tether, in fear that it might be reaching the end of the road.

Let’s hope that this is indeed the case, and that the RB tells Mr Hunt there is no point asking taxpayers to pay for its expertise if its remit is so limited. Unless it does so it is hard to believe that nurses would not be able to drive a harder bargain by ditching the RB and negotiating directly with the government.

Public sector pay restraint must continue, says Jeremy Hunt

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