NHS leaders, health unions and the government are close to reaching an agreement for a three-year pay deal for staff in England, leaked documents have revealed.
The agreement, however, is thought to be conditional on staff giving up a day’s holiday in return, with the government insisting this is deal-breaker in the negotiations.
The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it did not comment on leaks but that negotiations were ‘on-going’. If true, and the talks prove successful, this could mean the first real rise in pay for NHS since 2010.
According to the documents obtained by the Guardian, the Treasury and the DHSC are offering around 1 million NHS staff a 6.5% pay rise over the next three years in a deal worth £3.3 billion.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said: ‘The RCN has been part of pay talks alongside all NHS unions. They are on-going and have not concluded. Once there is agreement in principle - and the Treasury commits to fully fund it - our members will decide if any deal is acceptable.’
Although any increase in pay will surely be welcomed by NHS staff, there are concerns about whether the increase is sufficient. Particularly when the effect of inflation, which has caused staff’s pay to fall in real terms over the past 7 years, is factored in.
Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the health think tank Nuffield Trust, told Independent Nurse: ‘This would not be a major increase in pay. With inflation forecast at two to three percent in the coming years, a settlement like this would actually mean wages flat-lining in terms of what staff can actually buy.
‘What’s more, if proposals did include the loss of a day’s annual leave, this could effectively be a pay cut of around 0.4%.’
The plans include a 3% increase in the pay of all non-medical NHS staff in England in 2018-19, with rises of between 1-2% in the following two years. The rise would affect nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants, but exclude doctors and dentists, who are paid through a different system.
Any deal would need to be ratified by both union members and ministers, with a potential sticking-point being the government’s demand for staff to forfeit a day’s leave in return.
Responding to the reports, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said 'there is a possible agreement on pay in sight' but regretted the timing of the leak, saying it 'is unfortunate because it puts out an incomplete and unfinalised picture of what is being discussed and where we are in these negotiations with the Government. It does not help to speculate on rumour and whispers in corridors.
'It is important now that the RCM, our colleagues in the other health unions, and the Government focus on settling this pay deal, and when we know what the full and final offer is, take that to our members in the NHS. I hope that we can all make that announcement soon.'