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HSJ’s 10 most-read workforce stories of 2023

Published on: 28 Dec 2023

As we prepare to part ways with 2023, we’ve taken a look back at the most-read workforce stories of the year.

Thousands excluded from NHS pay rise in ‘two tier system’

In May, HSJ reported tens of thousands of outsourced staff could miss out on part of the pay deal agreed for Agenda for Change staff following months of industrial action. The Department of Health and Social Care said funding for the extra non-consolidated payments, which were part of the pay deal, would only be available for staff directly employed by NHS organisations. The payments were worth around £2,000 on average. 

What the pay deal means for each band

Speaking of the pay deal, the government and Agenda for Change unions announced they had reached it in March. This consisted of a 5 per cent consolidated pay increase for 2023-24, a one-off non-consolidated award of 2 per cent of 2022-23 salary, and an NHS backlog bonus, which would vary by pay band. HSJ broke down what it meant for each pay band in this story. 

NHS staff could be banned from agency work, says workforce plan

The NHS long-term workforce plan, published in June, contained several proposals relating to the use of agency staff. These included that substantive NHS staff should be blocked from working through agencies and should instead sign up to trusts’ temporary staffing banks if they wanted to take on extra shifts. The plan also warned the NHS’s use of temporary staff “offers poor value for money for the taxpayer”, while “there is also increasing evidence that use of temporary staffing – particularly agency staff – can negatively impact on patient and staff experience, and continuity of care”.

9,000 roles will go in delayed NHS England restructure

Earlier in the year, NHS England merged with Health Education England and NHS Digital. In May, the central body revealed around 9,000 roles would need to be cut as a result. This update added that some staff would not know whether they still had a role until March 2024, although NHSE stressed the majority of staff would know how the restructure affected them by September 2023. 

£100m redundancy budget set for NHS England, HEE and NHSD

Meanwhile, HSJ reported in February that there was a redundancy budget of £100m to cover around 1,000 departures and associated costs, such as legal expenses, from the NHSE, HEE and NHSD merger. NHSE also said the restructure would save around £400m per year from 2024-25.

NHS pension contribution rates cut for the highest earners

A government consultation published in November revealed upcoming changes to the contribution rates for the NHS pension scheme, including cuts in the percentage paid by some. In particular, those earning more than £75,633 per year – which covers those in band 9 or classed as very senior managers, as well as many of those at the top of band 8 – would see the rate they paid into the retirement saving scheme fall from 13.5 per cent to 12.5 per cent. 

Pay deal may lead to band 9s being paid more than senior managers

While the pay offer the government made to Agenda for Change staff in March was welcomed by many, it also sparked warnings some senior managers – whose pay is set separately by the Senior Salaries Review Body – could soon see their pay overtaken by the band 9 staff they were managing. Managers in Partnership Jon Restell said: “The government must also consider how this will impact existing pay overlap anomalies with AfC band 9 and some [on the] very senior manager [pay] grade.”

‘Unauthorised payoffs’ made to senior staff at six NHS organisations

NHSE’s accounts, which were published in January, revealed the organisation had received a telling-off from auditor general Gareth Davies regarding six unauthorised exit awards made without the required NHSE and Treasury authorisation during 2021-22. In particular, Mr Davies said the payments showed the rules governing exit payments were “still not sufficiently well understood” across the health service. 

Tributes after death of ‘strong, fair and compassionate’ NHS chief

It was announced in March that Andrew Foster, most recently chair of Manx Care and a non-executive director at Health Education England, had died following a short illness. Among his achievements, Mr Foster contributed to the delivery of the NHS People Plan, was interim lead of the NHS Leadership Academy, and supported covid-19 crisis responses with efforts to help more staff return to clinical work. 

Service ‘collapses’ after department left with ‘no doctors’

In July, HSJ revealed Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust’s dermatology service was in peril, with the British Association of Dermatologists writing to the trust about a “worrying series of resignations” which meant there were “no doctors in the department”. BAD’s letter went on to say: “We are disappointed to see continued communication barriers remain between our consultant dermatologists and management which has not been conducive to developing the service.” WAHT deputy chief executive and chief medical officer Christine Blanshard told HSJ the trust had arranged to meet with BAD and “welcomed their expertise in these discussions”.