The long-awaited and overdue government response to the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) award has finally been published.
Health secretary Stephen Barclay this afternoon said the government would implement the PRB's recommendations meaning an increase in full-time equivalent salaries of staff on Agenda for Change contracts of £1,400 on a consolidated basis, enhanced for staff at the top of Band 6 and all points in Band 7 so it is equal to a 4% pay uplift. The SoR are seeking clarity on the offer for Band 8 staff, but assume this will be £1400 – the equivalent of 2.6% at the top of 8a.
The SoR’s initial response is that 4% or £1,400 offer is inadequate and it’s most likely impact on the NHS staffing crisis will be to make it worse.
The SoR evidence to the PRB highlighted the scale of the staffing crisis across radiography. It especially highlighted challenges for Band 5s; the uncompetitive and inflexible package for overseas recruits; and little to no incentive to rise into leadership roles. The Society says the offer does nothing to recognise, let alone begin to address any of these serious concerns. Indeed, with inflation having risen to more than double the offer during the delay, the award amounts to a real terms pay cut for all NHS staff.
SoR Executive Director, Dean Rogers says the offer won’t make anyone feel better off. “Since last year’s pay award we’ve had NI increases, increased student loans, the re-introduction of parking charges and we know around 70% of NHS staff will see pension contributions increase in October.
The initial 3% the government suggested was almost cost neutral because of these increases in taxes. 4% or £1400 is only marginally better but with inflation more than double that radiographers will not be fairly rewarded. There is a real risk that this might result in more people choosing to leave the NHS.”
Dean adds, “The plight of new professionals is especially acute. Our evidence highlighted how their starting pay is uncompetitive, even by public sector standards. This award increases Band 5 starting pay by just 5.2%. Our evidence highlighted how pension increases and student loan repayments disproportionately eat into their early pay progression. Many face a ridiculous choice and this award just amplifies that.
"Either they work excessive hours or they can’t afford any kind of life. Yet if they work the excessive hours they end up time poor and exhausted. Many soon leave. If we keep burning out radiographers by forcing them to work excessive hours, Government and the public can forget ever getting on top of waiting times for diagnoses or cancer treatments.”
The SoR is meeting with other NHS unions this week to share reactions to the announcement. We will also be consulting widely with local Representatives and Regional Committees over the coming days before formally consulting with all members. As we have seen in Scotland, where we are consulting members on rejecting a 5% offer from their Government, it is probable the consultation will explore whether members would consider taking industrial action.
Dean continued, “We understand that with inflation at a 40 year high this was always going to be a difficult pay round. But everyone’s looking for signposts that Government, and the PRB, understand the staffing crisis and the importance of establishing a serious long term workforce strategy for the NHS. This year needs to signal a new start. The pandemic showed money can be found for the NHS when its deemed important enough. This proposed award is a missed opportunity that signals we could be going backwards. If the NHS is to have a long-term future everyone who cares for it is now going to need to speak up in its defence.”