Government rejects proposed 1% NHS pay rise

Around 600,000 NHS staff will receive a lower pay rise than expected following the government’s rejection of proposals to increase staff pay by 1%.

The independent NHS Pay Review Body recommended a 1% rise across all pay scales but ministers have claimed this as an ‘unaffordable’ cost.

Staff eligible for incremental ‘progression pay’ increases on the Agenda for Change framework, which usually average at 3.4%, will not receive a 1% rise on top of this. However, staff due to receive incremental rise of less than 1% will have them lifted to 1%.

Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury, said: ‘We need to continue with public sector pay restraint in order to put the nation’s finances back on a sustainable footing.

‘We are delivering on our commitment to a 1% pay rise for all except some of the most senior public sector workers.’

NHS Employers has defended the decision to curb NHS pay. Chief executive, Dean Royles, said:

‘These are really tough calls for the government to make. We know staff have worked incredibly hard in some very challenging circumstances when the NHS has been subject to exceptional scrutiny. For many staff a pay increase would of course help ease some financial pressures and for others a pay award would be a welcome recognition in a difficult year. We know how tough this decision will feel and how disappointed staff will be.

‘The evidence we gave to the review body said any rise would add to already significant cost pressures. Employers are recruiting more front line staff with no additional money and this is not sustainable. The simple fact is that the decision to have no annual pay increase for those already eligible for increments will help ensure more that staff remain in employment than would otherwise be the case.

‘More than two-thirds of NHS spending is on staff and increasing all staff pay by 1% cent would have cost about half a billion pounds, equivalent to around 14,000 nurses. Even with limiting the increase to staff at the top of their pay scales, employers still face a £150 million pay bill pressure this year. This is bound to have an impact.’

Health unions have reacted furiously to the announcement, with Rachel Maskell, head of health at the union Unite, saying that it will ask its members to consider industrial action over the pay award.

She added: ‘[Jeremy Hunt] is deliberately muddying the waters by trying to imply that the annual increment that staff receive, as they gain more skills to benefit patients throughout their careers, is part of the annual pay increase—it is not. It is despicable that Hunt has adopted such an underhand tactic.

‘The [pay review body’s] role is defunct, if ministers continue to steam roller its copious evidence gathering process which leads to its considered recommendations on pay.

‘Hunt has created a parallel pay universe where 2,400 top NHS bosses are earning more than David Cameron—this is a gravy train for the elite, while nurses, health visitors, paramedics and speech and language therapists are treated with contempt.’

Taken from Journal of Paramedic Practice, published 26 March 2014.