Ministers are considering overhauling the national framework of the NHS mileage mechanism for staff, which unions have criticised as ‘hopelessly out of date’ and ‘grossly unfair’.
The Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed to HSJ that it is scoping out the work for staff on the Agenda for Change framework but did not provide further details.
Although the NHS staff council reviews the rates twice a year, the current framework was last negotiated in July 2014. Additionally, the Automobile Association’s annual motoring costs guide – which the staff council used for determining rates – has not been published since 2016.
Agenda for Change staff can currently reclaim 59p per mile for the first 3,500 miles, and 24p per additional mile when using their personal vehicle for work.
Unison, which last year urged ministers to temporarily increase reimbursement rates, claimed a community nurse travelling 15,000 miles would have to pay more than £1,000 per year towards the costs of getting to appointments.
Describing the current rates as “hopelessly out of date”, Alan Lofthouse, Unison’s national officer for health, said: “A complete overhaul is what’s really needed. This would create a more flexible, fairer system where staff aren’t effectively subsidising their employer.
“But until that can be achieved, unions are pushing for a quick fix, so NHS and other frontline staff are better able to cover their costs. This could include raising the rate at which people pay tax when they make mileage claims.”
HSJ understands some employers, acknowledging the current high inflation rate and petrol prices, have arranged their own local terms for travel costs, or provided vouchers or salary advances to help with the expense.
The Royal College of Nursing has also called for a review of mileage rates and for employers to provide immediate payments to staff.
Patricia Marquis, the RCN’s director for England, told HSJ the union is calling for a “permanent uplift which is in line with the real cost of fuel”, adding it is urging the government to bring in the changes before the end of this year.
She said: “Mileage reimbursement rates are meant to reflect the cost of motoring but with costs going up and some mileage allowance rates frozen, NHS staff are losing hundreds to thousands of pounds a year. This is grossly unfair.”
The staff council has also asked the government to review the mileage mechanism.