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Is the NHS pay deal too little, too late?

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4 April 2018

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After months of waiting, we finally received the news that 1.3 million staff, including porters, nurses and paramedics, were offered a pay rise of 6.5% over three years, with some getting an increase of as much as 29%.

A 1% pay cap on public sector was imposed by former Chancellor George Osborne in 2015 until2019, although the Government said late last year that it would be scrapping it.

The deal is rather complex and the level of potential pay increase depends on your pay band– but how good is it for NHS staff overall?

After months of waiting, we finally received the news that 1.3 million staff, including porters, nurses and paramedics, were offered a pay rise of 6.5% over three years, with some getting an increase of as much as 29%.

A 1% pay cap on public sector was imposed by former Chancellor George Osborne in 2015 until2019, although the Government said late last year that it would be scrapping it.

The deal is rather complex and the level of potential pay increase depends on your pay band– but how good is it for NHS staff overall?

In simple terms, the breakdown is:

• Those at the top of their pay grades will get a 6.5% pay rise over three years.

• The other half will receive rises of 9%-29%.

• The lowest full-time salary paid to cleaners, porters and catering staff will increase by 15% to more than £18,005, meaning that these groups will get an immediate £2,000 increase.

Initially, unions were requesting a 3.9% pay rise. The Government offer is an increase of 3% in 2018-19, followed by rises of 2% in 2019-20 and 1%in 2020-21. When you take into account the rate of inflation, which is estimated at 2.4% in 2018, 1.8% in2019 and 1.9% in 2020 – it means the pay rise will not be a great deal in real terms.

However, there are those who have welcomed the move.

Lors Allford, chair of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Trade Union Committee, said: ‘This is the best pay deal in eight years.’ There is no doubt that Jeremy Hunt thinks this is a great deal for NHS workers. But how great is it really? Yes, it is an improvement on the 1% pay cap but I don’t think I have seen anyone jumping for joy on TV news.

Managers and healthcare professionals in the NHS do an amazing job, often in challenging circumstances with increasing demand and long hours. Surely there should be more support from the Government when agreeing pay deals? Despite being the fifth biggest employer in the world, the NHS is suffering from low-morale among workers and uncertainty about the future of the health system. Although the NHS is made up of 1.3m people, all helping to build a better health service, there seems to be never-ending problems. When is the Government going to reach into its pockets and acknowledge the incredible contribution of NHS workers in a way that goes beyond mere words?

Staff struggled with the worst winter NHS crisis on record this year. The lack of resources put a great deal of strain on the workforce. I for one believe that NHS staff deserve more than Mr Hunt’s empty words. Will they feel this is a fair reward for putting up with years of austerity and their heroic efforts this winter? So far, it looks unlikely.

Angela Sharda is deputy editor of Healthcare Leader. You can follow her @angelasharda or email her at angelasharda@cogora.com

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