UK Gov, Health Unions Reach Pay Deal, Ending Strike Threat

More than 1 million NHS staff in England will receive an additional pay rise as part of an offer made following talks between the government and Agenda for Change unions.

In the last two weeks, the government has been holding formal negotiations with unions representing staff including nurses, paramedics, 999 call handlers, midwives, security guards and cleaners, to find a fair and reasonable way forward on pay.

All parties committed to finding a fair deal for hardworking NHS staff, and a deal that also acknowledged the wider economic pressures facing the United Kingdom that would ensure we can deliver the Prime Minister's promise to halve inflation - one of his five priorities.

The government hugely values the work of NHS staff. They showed bravery and dedication to support the country throughout the pandemic and are now playing a vital role in the government's ambition to cut the waiting lists that have built up as a result of Covid.

The government also recognises that families across the country are facing increasing financial pressures, fuelled by the war in the Ukraine and the ongoing fallout from the pandemic.

The talks have been constructive and the government has now put forward a final offer.

The Royal College of Nursing, UNISON, GMB, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and the British Dietetic Association will recommend the offer to their members in consultations that will be held over the coming weeks. Strike action will continue to be paused while they are consulted.

Under the deal, Agenda for Change staff will receive a non-consolidated award of 2% of an individual's salary for 2022/23.

This is on top of the pay increase of at least 4% they received for 2022/23 last year, as recommended by the independent Pay Review Body process, worth at least £1,400, meaning a newly qualified nurse received a 5.5% increase and those on the lowest salaries received a pay rise of 9.3%.

In addition, they will receive a one-off 'NHS Backlog Bonus' which recognises the sustained pressure facing the NHS following the pandemic and the extraordinary effort staff have been making to hit backlog recovery targets and meet the Prime Minister's promise to cut waiting lists.

The backlog bonus will be worth at least £1,250 per person but will be determined based on how much experience staff have and based on an individual's pay band. The average nurse in pay band 5, for example, will receive £1,350.

For 2023/24, the government is offering Agenda for Change staff a 5% consolidated increase in pay, worth at least £1,065.

As a result of this package, a newly qualified nurse will see their salary go up by more than £2,750 over two years from 2021/22 to 2023/24. On top of this they will also receive over £1,890 in one-off payments this year.

The deal will also provide a higher pay uplift for the lowest paid NHS staff, with all those in bands 1 and 2 having their pay raised to the same level.

The government can guarantee that there will be no impact on frontline services or the quality of care that patients receive as a result of this pay offer.

The government firmly believes this is a fair and reasonable deal for Agenda for Change staff, as well as being a fair deal for taxpayers and will ensure we can continue to reduce inflation.

It remains the Prime Minister's promise to halve inflation and the government's objective to support the Bank of England to return inflation to the 2% target - because failing to control inflation will make every household poorer and make it harder to grow the economy.

On top of the pay package, the government is also committing to a number of reforms.

NHS staff should work in an environment that is free from deliberate violence, abuse and aggression. The Government will ask the existing groups established in the NHS Social Partnership Forum working on violence reduction to work with the NHS Staff Council to identify ways to tackle and reduce violence against NHS staff.

It will also make the suspension of pension abatement rules introduced during the pandemic permanent and introduce measures to ensure safer staffing levels in hospitals.

In addition, the Health and Social Care Secretary has written to the RCN to outline that in undertaking work to address the specific challenges faced by nursing staff - in terms of recruitment, retention and professional development - this will involve how to take account of the changing responsibilities of nursing staff, and the design and implementation issues, including scope and legal aspects, of a separate pay spine for nursing staff exclusively.

The Government intends to complete this work such that resulting changes can be delivered within the 2024/25 pay year. In conducting it, the Government will also consider whether any separate measures may apply to other occupational groups, taking into account the views of NHS Employers and unions.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:

I'm really pleased that after several weeks of constructive talks, the government and the Agenda for Change unions have come to an agreement that will provide a fair deal for NHS staff and put disruptive strike action behind us.

It is right that we reward our hardworking NHS staff, who showed bravery and dedication throughout the pandemic and continue to make phenomenal progress to tackle waiting lists. Importantly this deal is also affordable for the taxpayer and continues to deliver on my promise to halve inflation.

We have taken a reasonable approach throughout and this offer is good for NHS staff, it's good for the taxpayer and most importantly it is good news for patients whose care will no longer be disrupted by strike action.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said:

I hugely admire the incredible work of NHS staff, including during the pandemic and the progress they have made to tackle the resulting backlog.

This offer will give nurses, paramedics, physiotherapists and other non-medical staff a fair pay rise while protecting our commitment to halve inflation.

We have engaged in constructive and meaningful discussions with unions and NHS Employers and I look forward to continuing our work together to make the NHS a better place to work.

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