NHS nurse pay in England is set to rise by 6.5% over three years under new proposed deal

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Nurses and other NHS staff on the Agenda for Change contract in England are to be offered an average 6.5% pay rise over three years, with many staff set to receive more than this under proposals revealed today.

Unions said the three-year deal gives each of the 1.3 million staff on the NHS Agenda for Change contract a pay rise worth at least 6.5%, without changes to annual leave entitlements or unsocial hours payments.

Under the multi-year deal agreed by unions and employers, all but the very highest paid staff would get 3% in April 2018, 1.7% and a 1.1% lump sum in April 2019, and 1.7% from April 2020.

Overall, basic pay will increase over the three years by 22% (£4,842) for a band 5 nurse who started this year, 16% (£3,819) over the three years for a band 5 nurse with two years’ experience and 6.5% (£1,869) if they are at the top of the pay band.

According to the Royal College of Nursing, half of nurses will receive significantly more than 6.5%. It cited the example of a registered nurse, currently three years into their career and earning around £24,500, who it said would be over £6,000 a year better off by 2020-21.

The college also today said that the proposed new system would allow individuals to reach the top of their pay band sooner and starting salaries will be increased. The starting salary of a nurse will rise to £24,907, from £22,128 now, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

If accepted, the deal would also result in an end to band overlaps, which have seen some employees on lower ones earning more than more senior colleagues the next level up.

In addition, the healthcare assistants will get significantly more than 6.5% via the tiering arrangement. Unison said staff on the lowest pay grade would get an immediate pay rise of over £2,000 this year – an increase of between 11% and 13%.

Under the proposals, band 1 would be scrapped altogether by April 2021 and all staff moved to the next pay scale. The lowest salary in the NHS would then be £18,005.

The government has harboured ambitions to reform the contract for a long time, with ministers seeking to end what they saw as automatic pay rises being given through regular increment rises.

When first introduced, increment change was expected to be tied to staff appraisals via the knowledge and skills framework – but use of this part of the process has increasingly been seen as patchy.

Other measures outlined today as part of the deal include extending shared parental leave rights to all staff, and employers and unions making a “commitment” to reduce sickness absence through a ”better shared focus on staff health and wellbeing”.

Meanwhile, the idea that staff would be required to sacrifice a day’s holiday in return of the 6.5% increase, which was mooted in a national newspaper story earlier this month, appears to have been dropped.

Union members will be asked to vote on the new proposals, which are being recommended by unions and employers with the exception of the GMB, before they can be introduced.

Unions have also launched a website with more information on the proposal, including a “pay calculator” so staff on different bands can what they would get over the three years.

Unison head of health and lead pay negotiator for the NHS unions Sara Gorton said: “Seven years of pay freezes and wage increases well below the cost of living have meant significant financial hardship for health staff and their families. It’s also created headaches for employers as they struggled to attract new recruits and hold onto experienced staff.

“If health workers accept the offer, everyone’s wages will go further, and the lowest paid would get a significant income boost. Starting salaries for nurses, midwives and other health professionals would also become more attractive to people considering a career in the NHS,” she said.

RCN associate director employment relations Josie Irwin said: “Members campaigned hard to put an end to the years of poor pay rises and this deal is a significant move in the right direction from a government still committed to austerity.

“Starting salaries will be higher and current nursing staff will reach the top of their pay bands much faster than before, without changes to their leave entitlement or unsocial hour payments,” she said. “With this agreement, the government and NHS has acknowledged that the greatest rise in productivity will come from a healthy and motivated workforce.”

The Treasury has committed to fully fund the deal with £4.2bn extra for the NHS. Hospital trusts and other employers will not be asked to find the funds from existing resources.

Health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “NHS staff have never worked harder and this deal is recognition of that – alongside some important modernisation of the way their contracts work.

“Over one million employees on Agenda for Change contracts – including the lowest paid NHS workers – will get pay rises that see starting salary increased from £15,404 to £18,005 in 2020-21,” he said.

“The starting salary of a nurse will rise to £26,970 which will have a significant impact on retention and recruitment issues,” said Mr Hunt.

NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer said: “This three-year agreement sets out the pay investment that will be made and the reforms that employers, NHS trade unions and the Department of Health and Social Care are agreeing to implement together.

“To support long-term attraction and recruitment, starting salaries for all our non-medical staff groups will also see increases, which will help to make these roles more attractive,” he said. “It will also ensure that existing staff receive deserved increases to pay, which will assist our work to value and retain these vital colleagues.

He added: “We will also extend shared parental leave rights to all staff, and employers and unions have made a commitment to reducing sickness absence through a better shared focus on staff health and wellbeing, all of which will be welcomed by staff after a very tough winter.”

The deal was officially revealed today following the latest meeting of the NHS Staff Council, which saw the proposals rubber-stamped by representatives from 14 unions.

As reported by Nursing Times, NHS nurses have become increasingly frustrated at having their pay either frozen or restrained since 2010, most recently due to the cap that has limited basic wage rises to 1% since 2015. (via Nursing Times)

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