Health trusts demand urgent debate on national pay
A body representing greater than 200 NHS trusts across England says new ways of negotiating pay should be considered.
The chief executive of the root Trust Network (FTN), Chris Hopson, has questioned whether national agreements can deliver the savings needed for the health service.
He said it was time to think of setting pay regionally or trust-by-trust.
Unison has warned against putting in danger current proposals, covering a couple of million NHS workers.
A new national deal on pay, terms and prerequisites for many NHS staff in England appears tantalisingly close.
Trade unions are consulting on changes to the Agenda for Change scheme, covering multiple million workers. Some of the main modifications is a clearer link between annual pay increments and function.
Mr Hopson said NHS trusts completely supported the deal at the table.
However, he argued that after you examine the challenges trusts face over the following five years – a flat budget, rising costs, and the necessity to improve care at nights and weekends – it might not be enough.
“Drop within the ocean”
Pay takes up 60-70% of a mean trust’s costs, and safety concerns mean that’s impossible to chop staff numbers within the same way as other public services, Mr Hopson said.
While acknowledging that any improvements are welcome, he said he estimated the present deal on offer would secure an ordinary hospital annual savings of about £250,000, out of the £11m needed, which some people might call “a drop inside the ocean”.
In particular, Mr Hopson questioned whether enough was being done to reform annual increments – awarded no matter pay deals as staff increase experience.
“Can the NHS, for instance, continue to afford a system that offers 60% of staff a 2% pay increase each year, regardless of performance, on top of any cost of living increase?”
The time had come to examine a special approach, he added.
“Trusts now have a pressing need for the NHS to begin discussing the various ways lets set pay, terms and stipulations including staring at whether we must always set pay nationally, regionally or trust by trust – the exact same debate because the education service is now having.”
This is a concept that’s already being pursued by a consortium of trusts within the south west of britain.
Janet Davies from the Royal College of Nursing said abandoning national pay negotiations does not resolve the severe financial pressures within the NHS.
“Our experience shows that the price of moving to individual negotiation can outweigh any potential benefit.
“Nor will the NHS have the ability to raise the quality of care by moving to a system of pay cartels. The current Agenda for Change system is a clear and fair system that permits employers to devise ahead with certainty and to reward experience,” Ms Davies said.
Christina McAnea, from Unison, warned against jeopardising the changes being considered by unions.
“If the FTN is saying the present proposals aren’t enough it puts everything in danger.”
She said most trusts were failing to pick out up savings that were there for the taking under the prevailing arrangements, and she or he urged them to inform the govt. that the efficiencies demanded couldn’t be achieved.
Health minister Dr Dan Poulter said changes to NHS employee contracts were long overdue.
“Patient care lies on the heart of this. For this reason discussions has been about creating a much stronger link between providing good quality patient care and annual pay progression – with a miles stronger emphasis on behaviours referenced within the NHS Constitution around compassion, dignity and respect.”