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Nurses say reject local pay deals

Royal College of Nursing warns that changes will damage NHS

Mark Gould

Friday, 13 April 2012

The Royal College of Nursing warns that any changes to the NHS pay structure to introduce local pay bargaining will be detrimental to the NHS and hit recruitment.

The RCN says the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) must reject outright any proposals to introduce local pay bargaining. The call came today as the Department of Health (DH) submitted its evidence for change to the PRB.

The RCN’s chief executive, Dr Peter Carter, said the College believes local pay will risk competition between trusts for staff, drive pay down in certain areas and risk lasting damage to staff morale and motivation.

He said: “The current system is tried and tested. It ensures that employers in any part of the country can recruit staff with the right skills and experience to give patients the care that they need.”

The RCN noted that the Department of Health supported a national pay bargaining framework in its PRB evidence.

Dr Carter said: “We fear that a move which could see two nurses doing the same job but with a wide disparity in their pay is likely to hit patients in those areas which do not pay appropriately.”

Although it backs the principle outlined by the chancellor, George Osborne, in his 2011 autumn statement, the DH submission to the PRB states: "We would need to consider carefully the wider system reform in the NHS and the resulting organisational changes for the workforce which are still taking place … Pace-of-change decisions would need careful consideration to balance a faster realisation of the benefits of market-facing pay against the potential risks around affordability and recruitment and retention and so on."

The department also hints that it would demand more money from the chancellor if he insisted on more rapid changes: "If a faster transition is sought then the DH would need to consider whether any transitional measures to ease implementation issues were justified. The merits and affordability of any adjustment would need to be considered carefully."

NHS Employers, the organisation representing NHS managers, is keen for local pay deals. It says staff costs are still rising despite the public sector pay freeze and average 1% limits on increases from 2013. This is because the lowest-paid staff escaped the freeze and had £250 rises while other staff are still going up the pay scales as they gain experience and responsibility.

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