The government and Agenda for Change unions have reached a deal in their pay dispute, which the biggest unions will ask their members to support in ballots, while pausing strike action.
The key parts of the pay deal are:
- A 5 per cent consolidated pay increase for 2023-24, which is flat across all except Band 1 and the bottom point of Band 2, which will receive 10.4 per cent;
- A one-off non-consolidated award of 2 per cent of an individual’s 2022-23 salary; and
- An additional one-off, non-consolidated payment, branded an “NHS backlog bonus”, whose percentage varies by pay band.
The total non-consolidated bonus payments, to be made in 2022-23, will be worth between £1,655 (for staff on Band 2) to £3,789 (for staff at the top of Band 9, around 3.5 per cent of their annual pay). At the bottom of Band 7 it is worth £2,183. See table and chart at end of story for full one-off payment details.
There will be concerns in the NHS that funding the pay growth will require cuts elsewhere to NHS budgets, or related Department of Health and Social Care budgets in social care or public health.
HSJ understands the government has not yet finalised how the pay uplifts will be funded. DHSC said 3.5 per cent pay growth was accounted for in the current 2023-24 budgets.
Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay said the additional ask “will not come from patient-facing aspects” but that “of course we will look at areas of underspend, areas of administrative saving and discuss these things with the Treasury in the usual way”.
In addition to the pay deal, the government has agreed to several policy commitments, which it ”intends to complete” in time to implement in 2024-25.
HSJ understands these include changes to terms and conditions which will allow those on apprenticeships to do professional training “without detriment to pay”; and more (non-pay) support for new registrants.
Other non-pay commitments include:
- To consider ”the design and implementation issues, including scope and legal aspects, of a separate pay spine for nursing staff exclusively”, as part of addressing ”specific challenges faced by nursing staff – in terms of recruitment, retention and professional development”;
- It will also “consider whether any separate measures may apply to other occupational groups, taking into account the views of NHS Employers and unions”;
- “Introduce measures to ensure safer staffing levels in hospitals”;
- “Make the suspension of pension abatement rules introduced during the pandemic permanent”; and
- Work with unions and employers to Identify more ways to tackle and reduce violence against NHS staff.
Although the 5 per cent pay offer for 2023-24 is below current inflation rates, the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts it will fall to 2.9 per cent by the end of this year.
A joint statement from the government and the NHS Staff Council, which includes employers and Agenda for Change unions, published this afternoon, said both sides believe it represents a “fair and reasonable settlement”.
It added: “Those unions with mandates for industrial action… will now consult their members in consultations that will be held over the coming weeks.
“Strike action will continue to be paused while these ballots are ongoing.”
Ending the dispute will require union members to vote to accept the deal.
Unite has said it will not recommend in favour of the deal to its members, instead presenting it neutrally, but the other Agenda for Change unions — including the Royal College of Nursing and Unison — said they would recommend it is backed.
Strikes will be paused while the ballots take place.
The deal does not cover doctors, who have separate pay frameworks.