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NHS Employers: "Unnecessary" 1% staff pay rise will cost NHS £500 million

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Most NHS staff are set to receive a 1% pay rise from April, but its managers have hit out at the plans, suggesting the move will cost the NHS £500 million and could even harm patient care.

After a two-year pay freeze, about six out of 10 NHS staff will receive the increase, including nurses and paramedics, while most GPs will receive a rise of 1.3%.

However, NHS Employers, which represents management across the health service, has said the pay increase "wasn't necessary" and would add "additional cost pressures" to NHS trusts.

It has said the pay increase will add in the region of £500 million to NHS annual expenditure.

Unions have said that 1% was too little and would leave many nurses, healthcare assistants and lower-paid staff "struggling to keep their heads above water".

In a written statement the Government said it would accept recommendations from the independent pay-review body that almost 1.4 million public-sector employees, including nurses, doctors and members of the armed forces, would receive a 1% pay rise from next month.

The NHS Employers claims the two-year pay freeze has not frozen earnings for most staff in the NHS. It states that 60% of all nurses, administrators and some other staff groups will be receiving increments equivalent to an average salary increase of 3.4% next year, rising to 6.7% in some cases.

It has stated the reward package "remains highly competitive" and is a "valuable recruitment and retention tool". It claims that even the lowest NHS pay rates remain competitive in the labour market and are "significantly above" the national minimum wage.

Dean Royles, chief executive of the NHS Employers organisation, said: "I understand why the Government chose to accept the Pay Review Body recommendation for a pay increase after two years of headline pay freeze, but I am still deeply perplexed that the independent pay-review bodies have recommended any increase at all.

"We gave compelling evidence to the pay-review bodies on pay levels, staff turnover and improvements in job satisfaction, arguing that a pay increase this year wasn't necessary and would add additional cost pressures to NHS trusts in what we know will be an extremely challenging year.

"I fully recognise that some staff are anxious about their income, and employers want to do everything they can to support them and build morale.

"But employers' biggest priorities are maintaining and improving quality patient care and staff job security, both of which depend on sustainable pay bills."

Christina McAnea, head of health at the union, Unison, said: "What kind of message does it send to health workers about the value this government places on their work? And what incentive is there for young people to join the NHS when they are so undervalued?

"Freezing and squeezing pay is crushing morale and heaping financial misery on more than a million NHS workers. At the same time, the NHS is going through a massive reorganisation and staff are dealing with job cuts, rationing and ever-increasing patient numbers."

Unite assistant general secretary for the public sector Gail Cartmail has said the public-sector pay squeeze is hitting living standards. "Yet again, nurses, health visitors, prison officers and the soldiers serving in Afghanistan are bearing the brunt for the financial chaos caused by the greedy City elite," he said.

Cartmail added: "Working people are faced with average energy bills of £1,400 a year and soaring food prices, yet ministers march blithely onwards.

"Public-sector workers contribute greatly to their local economies, so if their pay packets are further squeezed this has an adverse knock-on effect in the local high street - and this will hinder economic recovery."