Nurses and other NHS employees in England should receive a 3.5% salary raise for the years 2023–2024, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
The Government warned in its application to the NHS Pay Review Body (NHSPRB) for the upcoming fiscal year that any pay award above this level would necessitate “trade-offs” in public services or additional borrowing.
However, Unions referred to this offer as “a disgrace” and claimed it would not halt the ongoing labor conflicts occurring all over the UK. According to DHSC’s written testimony, money is available for pay awards up to 3.5% through the department’s current financial settlement with HM Treasury and reprioritization decisions.
Additionally, the Government claims that pay awards above this level would force the Government to choose between providing public services or taking on additional debt when headroom for fiscal rules is historically low and stable public finances are essential in the fight against inflation. Meeting the recommendations for the 2022–2023 fiscal year had “a significant effect on the NHS budget” and had cost £1.4 billion more than what was deemed reasonable.
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In its submission, the Government stated: “The department went to great lengths to safeguard front-line services, making every attempt to do so in finding additional efficiencies by examining areas of central and corporate spend, meeting the NHSPRB recommendations in 2022 to 2023 necessitated some tough decisions, including the review of investment in transformation programs, such as reductions in funding for IT transformation.”
Following advice from the pay review committee, DHSC increased the pay of nurses employed by NHS Agenda for Change contracts in England by £1,400 for the fiscal year 2022–2023. The Royal College of Nursing and Unison, two health unions, have been working to enhance this offer and have won the right to strike in all NHS trusts.
The NHSPRB procedure has also been boycotted by these unions, who declined to provide information for the current fiscal year and demanded direct pay discussions with ministers.
RCN announced on February 21, 2023, that its strike action had been halted while it started talks with the UK Government. RCN has a strike mandate for 128 trusts in England. The union stated that it would not comment on the upcoming fiscal year. However, the 3.5% suggested pay rise has angered other health unions.
Sara Gorton, the head of health at Unison, said: “The Government couldn’t have done better than this if it were trying to exacerbate the NHS crisis intentionally. The number of open positions is at an all-time high, and this appalling wage proposal does nothing to stop the worsening staffing problem.
Ms. Gorton noted that in a 6.5% average pay award proposed last week, the Scottish Government “offered considerably more” to NHS employees for 2023–24. She cautioned that for staff members who were already unsure of their futures in the NHS, today’s offer for England could be “the last blow.”
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The NHS employees who are on strike, according to Ms. Gorton, “Pay talks with all health unions representing them must happen now. The disagreement can only be resolved by meeting with more than one union. The behavior of ministers needs to change, and they need to improve significantly.
NHS employees “deserve better,” according to Rachel Harrison, National Secretary of the union GMB, who claimed that the submission made today “shows this government’s true colors.” The true value of the complete workforce is something other than what ministers are interested in acknowledging. It is a disgrace and will not stop the GMB’s strikes against the NHS and ambulances.
According to DHSC, the size of the NHS workforce, compared to other workforces, makes the effect of pay pressures accordingly greater.
The statement continued, “These are trying times for everyone. Our priority is to ensure an equitable pay award that recognizes the critical importance of public sector employees while minimizing inflationary pressures and managing the country’s debt. Pay must thus be equitable but still within reach in light of the difficult fiscal and economic environment.
DHSC stated, “We implore the pay review body to carefully consider the vital balance between ensuring that existing money can be utilized to deliver essential services by prioritizing the commitments to improve care and fairly rewarding staff.”
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