Pay rise for NHS staff criticised by unions and industry bodies

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Yesterday (July 19), the Government accepted the recommendations from the independent NHS pay review bodies in full, and confirmed a pay rise for over one million NHS staff under the Agenda for Change contract of at least £1,400. 

The pay rise was due in April 2022 and will be backdated.

This announcement does go some way to increasing the pay of some lower earning staff, such as cleaners and porters, for whom the increase amounts to some 9.3%, however, it has been widely criticised as not going far enough to recognise the increased cost of living, and has been described by the British Dietetic Association (BDA) as a “real terms cut in wages.” Whilst band 6 and 7 staff will see their pay rise “enhanced” so it equates to a 4.5% increase, (staff at the top of band 6 will get £1,561 for instance), those in bands 8 and 9 will see an uplift of less than 3% - in some cases as low as 1.3%.

BDA Director of Trade Union and Public Affairs, Annette Mansell-Green says: "Workers across the NHS have worked incredibly hard over the past two years in exceptional circumstances. This NHS pay award is unacceptable and substantially below the expected levels of inflation.

"Dietitians and Dietetic Support Workers play an integral part of our health system and deserve better than the pay award we’re seeing today.”

Trade union, UNISON, says the Government has “made a big mistake,” calling the pay rise short-sighted and pointing out that the hikes in energy bills alone will wipe out the increase for most workers. 

UNISON General Secretary, Christina McAnea says: “A decent pay rise isn’t a magic cure for every NHS ill. But it would show staff and patients that ministers care enough to start sorting out the workforce crisis at the heart of the health service’s many problems. 

“Sadly, this award fails on every front. It doesn’t protect health workers from the growing cost of living crisis, arrest the decline in patient services or cut queues.     

“Wages are key to fixing the staffing shortages ​hampering the health service's post-pandemic recovery. The public understands this*. It's a pity the government doesn't. The Treasury should fund this pay award fully.” 

UNISON calculates that the consolidated pay rise of £1,400 amounts to a 4.75% increase for the NHS Agenda for Change pay bill.

NHS Providers welcomes the move to target the lowest earners but says its failure to acknowledge the increased cost of living will leave many NHS staff facing real hardship. “NHS staff have shown great commitment through the challenges of recent times, not least the pandemic. Trust leaders are clear their contribution and efforts should be recognised in the pay award,” says Miriam Deakin, Director of Policy and Strategy and Interim Deputy Chief Executive at NHS Providers.

She adds concerns that some staff groups are excluded, such as junior doctors, which has the potential to create division among the workforce, and says that the pay award not being fully-funded is “a critical and wider problem” for the NHS. 

“Time and again we have told the Government that any award must be fully-funded. Failure to do so will eat into budgets that are already overstretched, impacting on services for patients. Unfortunately, that is precisely the risk we face right now.

"NHS England has a 3% pay uplift baked into national funding pots. In the absence of a fully-funded offer, this announcement will result in a hit to health budgets which will be passed on to frontline care.

"Trusts and the wider NHS already face stretching efficiency targets so there is no prospect this funding shortfall could be filled by further efficiencies on the front line.

"As inflation eats away at the NHS settlement, amid rising costs and the need to cover the withdrawal of COVID-19 funding, it's hard to say with certainty what that would mean. But it puts at risk funding for key services like cancer. Planned development of other vital services, including primary care, could also be disrupted.”

* The results of research published ahead of the pay rise announcement found that more than half (55%) of the British public believe that an above-inflation pay rise for NHS staff of more than 9% would be a fair increase. 



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