The Chancellor has announced that the Government plans to review the current agenda for change pay structure in the coming months.
During today's budget speech, Phillip Hammond failed to announce a pay rise for a million nurses and other 'dedicated NHS staff' but instead announced a review and 'modernisation' of the Agenda for Change pay structure.
The review could mean potential contractual changes similar to that seen by junior doctors earlier this year - with unsociable hours, incremental pay and pension contributions becoming the probable target for cuts.
Hammond went on to say that Jeremy Hunt is already in consultation with healthcare unions and the NHS Pay Review Body - adding he will provide "additional funding" for a pay rise if negotiations "bear fruit".
During the November Budget Phillip Hammond said;
"Our nations nurses provide invaluable support to us all at our greatest time of need and deserve our deepest gratitude for their tireless efforts.
"The Health Secretary has already begun discussions with health unions on paystructure modernisation for agenda for change staff to improve recruitment and retention.
He will submit evidence to the Independent Pay Review Body in due course, but I want to assure NHS staff and patients and members of this house that if the Health Secretaries talks bear fruit, I will protect patient services by providing additional funding for such a settlement."
The Royal College of Nursing alongside fourteen other trade unions representing healthcare staff previously called for a 3.9% pay rise plus an additional extra £800 to help make up for the real-terms pay cut they have seen in recent years and they believe this announcement is a 'step in the right direction'.
Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said:
“The Chancellor has clearly listened to the tens of thousands of nursing staff who’ve been campaigning for fair pay, and he was right to address their concerns. Promising the NHS additional money for nursing pay is welcome but Philip Hammond must make it a meaningful pay rise.
“The NHS has been running on the goodwill of its staff for too long, and with more talk of reform and productivity, Hammond runs the risk of insulting nurses who regularly stay at work unpaid after 12-hour shifts. Their goodwill will not last indefinitely.
“Nursing pay has fallen further and further below the cost of living for the last seven years, with a gap now worth £3,000 a year. In the months to come, the Government must allow the NHS Pay Review Body to be genuinely independent of government for the first time in years and give it the freedom to recommend a meaningful pay rise.”
UNISON has previously criticised the government for paying staff with a 'pat on the back', in a statement Sara Gorton, UNISON Head of Health, said;
“Health unions are willing to explore all options to try to make pay better. But if the health secretary thinks negotiations will be a way of getting staff to pay for their own wage rise by giving up other things that simply won’t wash.
“Trying to correct the impact of six long years of pay restraint in one single pay round will be a huge challenge without significant investment.
“Extra cash to see the NHS through what could turn out to be a long, cold winter will be welcomed in hospitals across the country. But it’s not enough for a health service struggling to care for patients, while all the time more and more people are calling upon its services.”
NHS staff will now need to wait until the NHS Pay Review Body publishes its 'independent' report which is expected in March of 2018 to find out the result of any recommendations.