NHS staff are finally set to get a pay rise, marking the end of a seven-year wage cap. Unions representing more than a million NHS workers are to recommend acceptance of a pay offer. The offer is of between 6.5% and 29% over the next three years.
This comes after months of talks between the government and leaders of 14 trade unions representing nurses, midwives, ambulance drivers, porters and other non-medical staff.
It was previously feared more NHS workers would be forced to give up a day’s holiday in return for the salary increase. However, the government has now scrapped that plan. Ministers were insisting on an extra day’s work a year as a precondition of the deal.
Workers will have to be consulted but it is expected they will receive higher pay from July, backdated to April. It breaks a wage cap that has existed since 2010.
The deal covers NHS workers in England at a cost of around £4 billion. This will be new money from the Government rather than coming from existing budgets. Money is expected to be made available for similar pay rises in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The deal will be structured to give higher rises to the lowest paid. Pay bands will be changed so that workers can move more quickly through their pay grade.
The Government’s controversial public sector pay cap previously limited NHS workers to an annual increase of no more than 1%. The cap has affected other public-sector workers including local government staff.
‘There is no magic money tree’ – Theresa May
In last year’s election campaign, Theresa May campaigned amid threats of the first-ever strike by NHS nurses angry at seeing their income fall in real terms. She told an NHS nurse ‘there is no magic money tree’ when challenged over the pay cap during an episode of Question Time.
The government first announced it would lift the public sector 1% pay cap in September for police and prison officers. It then followed that with a promise in the Budget that NHS pay would be looked at, lifting the 1% cap a yearly early.
The NHS has been under pressure to retain staff, after it was revealed that one in 10 nurses were leaving the public sector in England every year. The Royal College of Nursing claims average nurse pay has fallen by more than 14% in real terms since 2010.
Statistics obtained by the BBC from NHS Digital showed 33,000 nurses walked away in 2017, piling pressure on understaffed hospitals and community services.