By Ben Kerrigan-
A 5% pay rise from April has been offered to NHS staff in England, including nurses and ambulance workers, as well as a one-off payment of at least £1,655 to top up the past year’s pay award.
Unions have encouraged members to support the deal, after nearly two weeks of talks with ministers, raising hopes the bitter dispute may be coming to an end.
The offer covers all NHS staff except doctors, who are on a different contract.
The offer consists of a one-off payment of 2% of their salary plus a COVID recovery bonus of 4% for the current financial year 2022/23, and a 5% pay increase for 2023/24.
The deal extends to key NHS workers including nurses and paramedics but not junior doctors, who are involved in a separate dispute over pay and conditions.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay(pictured) said the deal means a newly qualified nurse will get more than £1,800 this year on top of a pay rise of more than £1,300 next year.
Barclay described it as a “fair pay rise” that would also protect the government’s commitment to halve inflation.
“I hugely admire the incredible work of NHS staff,” he said. “I look forward to continuing our work together to make the NHS a better place to work.”
Mr Barclay said there had been movement on both sides and praised the “constructive engagement” of the unions.
The biggest three – the Royal College of Nursing, Unison and the GMB – are all backing the deal, while Unite the Union has said it cannot recommend it to members but will put it to a vote.
The Uk government has been holding formal negotiations with unions representing staff including nurses, paramedics, 999 call handlers, midwives, security guards and cleaners, to find a fair and reasonable way forward on pay.
The Department Of health and Social Care said all parties committed to finding a fair deal for hardworking NHS staff, and a deal that also acknowledged the wider economic pressures facing the United Kingdom that would ensure we can deliver the Prime Minister’s promise to halve inflation – one of his five priorities.
The government said it values the work of NHS staff, particularly for the bravery and dedication it showed in supporting the country throughout the pandemic and are now playing a vital role in the government’s ambition to cut the waiting lists that have built up as a result of Covid.
The Royal College of Nursing, UNISON, GMB, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and the British Dietetic Association will recommend the offer to their members in consultations that will be held over the coming weeks. Strike action will continue to be paused while they are consulted.
Under the deal, Agenda for Change staff will receive a non-consolidated award of 2% of an individual’s salary for 2022/23 on top of the pay increase of at least 4% they received for 2022/23 last year, as recommended by the independent Pay Review Body process, worth at least £1,400, meaning a newly qualified nurse received a 5.5% increase and those on the lowest salaries received a pay rise of 9.3%.
In addition, they will receive a one-off ‘NHS Backlog Bonus’ which recognises the sustained pressure facing the NHS following the pandemic and the extraordinary effort staff have been making to hit backlog recovery targets and meet the Prime Minister’s promise to cut waiting lists.
The backlog bonus will be worth at least £1,250 per person but will be determined based on how much experience staff have and based on an individual’s pay band. The average nurse in pay band 5, for example, will receive £1,350.
Newly qualified nurse will also see their salary go up by more than £2,750 over two years from 2021/22 to 2023/24. On top of this they will also receive over £1,890 in one-off payments this year.
The deal will also provide a higher pay uplift for the lowest paid NHS staff, with all those in bands 1 and 2 having their pay raised to the same level.
The government can guarantee that there will be no impact on frontline services or the quality of care that patients receive as a result of this pay offer.
The government firmly believes this is a fair and reasonable deal for Agenda for Change staff, as well as being a fair deal for taxpayers and will ensure we can continue to reduce inflation.
It remains the Prime Minister’s promise to halve inflation and the government’s objective to support the Bank of England to return inflation to the 2% target – because failing to control inflation will make every household poorer and make it harder to grow the economy.
On top of the pay package, the government is also committing to a number of reforms.
The Government also said it will ask the existing groups established in the NHS Social Partnership Forum working on violence reduction to work with the NHS Staff Council to identify ways to tackle and reduce violence against NHS staff.
It will also make the suspension of pension abatement rules introduced during the pandemic permanent and introduce measures to ensure safer staffing levels in hospitals.
In addition, the Health and Social Care Secretary has written to the RCN to outline that in undertaking work to address the specific challenges faced by nursing staff – in terms of recruitment, retention and professional development – this will involve how to take account of the changing responsibilities of nursing staff, and the design and implementation issues, including scope and legal aspects, of a separate pay spine for nursing staff exclusively.
Unison head of health Sara Gorton said: “It’s a shame it took so long to get here.
“Health workers had to take many days of strike action and thousands more had to threaten to join them to get their unions into the room and proper talks under way.”
If her members accepted the deal, it would mean a “significant” boost in pay, Ms Gorton added.
RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said: “Members took the hardest of decisions to go on strike and I believe they have been vindicated today.”.
The offer, he claims, is “not really going to help recruitment in the NHS” because “only current staff members will get it”.
It comes after a winter of industrial action, with nurses, ambulance staff and physios all striking.
The unions put further action on hold, after the two sides agreed to discussions last month.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was “delighted” with the agreement over pay during a visit to a hospital in London on Thursday afternoon.
Sunak said: ”I’m really pleased that after several weeks of constructive talks, the government and the Agenda for Change unions have come to an agreement that will provide a fair deal for NHS staff and put disruptive strike action behind us.
It is right that we reward our hardworking NHS staff, who showed bravery and dedication throughout the pandemic and continue to make phenomenal progress to tackle waiting lists. Importantly this deal is also affordable for the taxpayer and continues to deliver on my promise to halve inflation.
We have taken a reasonable approach throughout and this offer is good for NHS staff, it’s good for the taxpayer and most importantly it is good news for patients whose care will no longer be disrupted by strike action”