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2018/19 pay crystal ball gazing

19 December, 2017

Author: Warren Town, director of industrial strategy

Crystal ball

Our supreme leader, Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health, has formally decided to give the NHS Pay Review Body a remit for the 2018/19 pay round.

You may be forgiven for wondering why he has taken so long to come clean, but no doubt HM Treasury had a hand in deciding what to say, given that they adopt the attitude that less is always more.

It will not have escaped your notice that there is a drive to implement a recommendation that will include a multi-year deal. Why, you may ask, is this necessary?

The answer is simple: it allows the government to stagger payments over a longer period, thereby avoiding upfront costs and a hope that over time any award depreciates in value to save further pressure on the public purse.

Multiyear deals are not new; we have been here before. They often appear when a government is cash strapped, or where they want to phase in the cost of any improvements to the service but do not want to take a major hit on the finances in one go.

Multiyear deals are not to be dismissed out of hand and can benefit all parties but this does depend on the future state of an economy. Multiyear deals with rising inflation, and this is currently on the rise, are not ‘deals’ at all but future cuts to income.

In this scenario where inflation is uncertain, Brexit is uncertain, the future for health care is uncertain, the only good multiyear deal will have caveats to address any uncertainty.

It is also cheering to note that the government are happy to put in more money to pay, but want the employers and the unions to decide how any award from the NHS PRB is divided up.

Cue Jeremy Hunt, DH and the government walking away from decision making and distancing themselves from any fall out.

We have already reported on the bare bones of the Staff Side submission to the NHS PRB and can now report that we have created supplementary evidence for SoR members.

Our evidence is somewhat a depressing read, but it is what it is and there is no point sugar coating the truth.

The fact remains that members are suffering financially and although a good pay award from the PRB is not a panacea, it is at least recognition that austerity in its current form cannot continue.

It will be some time before we hear back from the PRB and no doubt they will have much to consider, but if the government continues to play fast and loose with members and relies on their goodwill and perseverance, there is only so much that anyone can take.

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