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NHS staff hit back as Hunt unveils latest real-terms pay cut

NHS staff will receive a pay rise of 1% from 1 April, but this will actually amount to a pay cut in real terms as the inflation rate currently stands at 2.3%.

The news was announced today by the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, in the House of Commons, and has already been slammed by public bodies including the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) who described the rise as “a bitter blow” and Unison who say the announcement shows how the government take NHS staff “for granted”.

The British Medical Association (BMA) also had strong words for the health secretary, stating that the pay review was “nothing more than a cover for driving down real pay in the health service”.

A report released by Parliament alongside the announcement said that the decision had been made “in the context of significant affordability pressures facing the NHS across the UK, with increasing demand for healthcare being accommodated within budgets that are broadly flat in real terms”.

Speaking in Parliament, Hunt said: “The government is pleased to accept its recommendations for a 1% increase to all Agenda for Change pay points from 1 April 2017 and the High Cost Area Supplement minimum and maximum payments. This will be in addition to incremental pay for those that are eligible.

“The recommendation that health departments should ensure that annual pay awards do not have unintended consequences in reducing the take-home pay of staff whose pay award causes them to cross pension contribution thresholds, will be considered as part of the four-yearly valuation of the NHS Pension Scheme, a process which will determine the appropriate level of employer and employee pension contributions from April 2019.”

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, stated that employers are facing unprecedented financial and service challenges, and managing pay costs remains an integral part of meeting these challenges.

“NHS organisations have developed their financial plans on the basis of a continuation of the government’s ongoing public sector pay policy of 1% pay awards, together with payment of annual increments,” he said.

“Employers understand that a continuation of pay restraint over the longer term is of growing concern to our workforce; we will continue to work with trade unions to explore how the overall value of the NHS employment package offer can be maximised within the current constrained position.”

However, unions have now hit back at the government, saying that the real-terms pay cut will deter new talent from joining the NHS and make it even harder to retain experienced workers.

Janet Davies, RCN chief executive, said: “This deals a bitter blow to nursing staff across England. The nursing profession is rightly held in high regard but kind words don’t pay the bills.

“With this announcement, the government will deter new people from joining the nursing profession at the very moment it is failing to retain staff and European colleagues in particular head for the door.

“It amounts to another real-terms cut to pay packets. The government is still refusing to keep nursing wages in line with inflation.”

Davies also pointed out that the government had already cut nursing pay by 14% in real terms – something which had led to many struggling and turning to foodbanks and hardship grants to get by.

“Many nurses rely on working extra hours for the NHS as agency staff but, from next week, they will be forced to work through a ‘bank’ and accept lower rates of pay than they get in their normal NHS job,” she stated.

“Ministers are ignoring the evidence that staff shortages put patient care and safety at risk. Tens of thousands of nursing jobs lie vacant today and the government missed the opportunity to stop that getting worse.”

Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, added that the effect of the decision would be felt by doctors and junior doctors.

“The DDRB is recommending just a 1% pay uplift for doctors, well below the current cost of living rise of 2.3%. In real terms, doctors’ pay has sharply declined in the past five years, with junior doctors seeing their income drop by 17% at a time when their morale has been badly hit by the government’s mishandling of the new contract,” he said.

“Over the same period consultants have seen their pay drop by 14% and GPs by 13%.”

This is something that will anger doctors, Porter highlighted, adding that the news comes during a period when doctors were working harder than ever before in an environment of rising patient demand, stagnating budgets and staff shortages.

“Hospital doctors and GPs are bearing the brunt of the funding crisis facing the NHS, and are choosing to leave. This is where rota gaps, consultant vacancies and closed GP practices start,” he continued.

“While targeted incentives of the kind proposed in this report might sound positive, they do not ultimately address the serious overall problems that are widespread throughout the country.”

What the NHS needed while it was at “breaking point,” Porter argued, was a long-term workforce plan and not “piecemeal initiatives” that offer only a short-term fix. 

“We will analyse the DDRB report in detail, but these recommendations will come as a bitter blow to a workforce already wondering whether the government knows or cares about the demoralising effect of year-on-year pay cuts,” he said.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis also said the settlement did little to reassure staff they were being appreciated by the government.

“Health service employees go above and beyond caring for patients and keeping the health service running – often in very challenging circumstances,” he said. “The government insists it values them, but after endless pay freezes and wage caps, they feel taken for granted. Day after day NHS staff are giving 100%, but getting just 1% in return.”

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Anon   29/03/2017 at 14:10

OK they will get away with it this year but cannot have this next year!

Tony Francis Edwards   30/03/2017 at 07:40

As an NHS employee of many years I have never felt so under valued; every day I work more hours than I am paid for, because I care about the job I do; and this poultry 1% increase is probably the final nail in the coffin; time to find alternative employment. It s easy when you are a millionaire like Jeremy Hunt, to be smug about giving hard pressed NHS staff such an insulting increase.

Megan Quirk   30/03/2017 at 14:41

I hope, Mr Hunt ,you can live with yourself, knowing that you are going to eventually, be held responsible for the destruction of our wonderful NHS . Stand up for yourself and us .Do what is right .

Rachel   05/04/2017 at 23:17

I am employed to work a standard 37.5 week by the NHS as an occupational therapist. In reality, to ensure patie t safety, different performance measures are met and to keep waiting times down I work at least 47.5 hours if not more, all extra, all unpaid!!! I feel so unappreciated amd undervalued and that there is no support for staff actually worling with patients. If i didnt care for my patoenta so much i would be looking for a job in an office somewhere! Disgraceful, and completely unsustainable to cut pay for staff when the working pressures are only going to increase with an aging population.

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