Opinion

The RB is still the fairest system we’ve got

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The NHS Pay Review Body (RB) was set up to take the politics out of nurses’ and other NHS workers’ pay.

Every year the RB gathers evidence from all sides and comes up with a report that reflects the totality of that evidence.

In past years its findings have been implemented by governments - albeit sometimes in stages.

By accepting the RB’s recommendations, governments were able to maintain industrial relations on a more or less even keel and keep industrial strife out of the health service.

The RB’s recommendations are not being implemented by the government in 2014 and it is not clear now what the RB is for: if its only function has been so fatally undermined, why should it continue to exist?

Nurses’ pay in the NHS won’t make anybody rich. Nurses have to work for four or five years before they get to the proper going rate for the job; the system of annual increments can just as easily be described as decrements that are withheld until a certain amount of experience has been accumulated.

The latest offer from the government returns us to the state where NHS pay becomes a political football to be argued over every year and at election times.

One party will say one thing, and the other parties will say something else. The logic - you could call it sanity - of the RB will disappear and nurses’ pay will be subject to the whims of whoever is health secretary, regardless of independent evidence about its value and their worth.

And all of this when large numbers of the most experienced nurses are being lost from the NHS and there is clear evidence that having more, better qualified nurses saves lives.

What is that saying about knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing?

About the author

Colin Parish is editor of Learning Disability Practice and Mental Health Practice, both published by RCNi
@editorLDPandMHP