An exclusive poll of the health services’ HR leaders has found strong support for an end to pay retraint after 2015-16- with nearly half backing a return to inflation-matched pay increases.

HR Barometer bar chart

The barometer of HR directors and managers, in association with NHS Employers, found a significant minority of 47 per cent believe staff should receive a pay rise matching inflation next year if the financial environment of the NHS remains as predicted.

Just over a fifth of respondents supported a 1 per cent pay rise for all staff and nearly 16 per cent supported the idea of extending the government’s current policy of giving a pay rise only to those not eligible for an increment.

Almost three quarters of HR directors, 72 per cent, said they expected the number of nurses in their organisation to increase over the next six months despite the growing strain on NHS trust finances.

Key numbers from HR Barometer

More than half of repsondents, 55 per cent, said they were not confident their organisation had enough nurses to meet demand over the next six months. Most are planning to recruit nurses from abroad.

Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “The UK has been cutting the supply of nurses to save money, then realising too late that patient safety is in danger and paying even more money to recruit from overseas.

“It is the equivalent of relying on payday loans and it is no way to run a health service.”

Despite HR managers supporting the idea of inflation pay rises, an overwhelming majority, 87 per cent, said there needed to be a further review of the Agenda for Change contract for non-medical staff.

The last deal on the Agenda for Change was only agreed between trade unions and NHS Employers in February 2013.

Barometer bar chart

Of those who supported further reform, 71 per cent said changes were needed to sick pay entitlements while 60 per cent wanted changes to unsocial hours pay and the contract pay structure.

Almost four in 10 said there should be reform of annual leave and redundancy provisions.

Christina McAnea, head of health at Unison and chair of the Staff Side Council, welcomed employers support for inflation pay rises but added: “Employers should join with us to lobby the government for more funding.”

On reviewing the pay, terms and conditions of staff she said unions would welcome talks on changes but not if it was solely to cut costs.

She said: “Agenda for Change works; it’s just that there’s not enough money being put into it. We agreed a deal in 2013 and that has hardly been adopted by employers as it is.”

Asked to rate the morale of staff, one in five managers said it was either very poor or poor, with 70 per cent describing it as moderate and 11 per cent as either high or very high.

Caroline Waterfield, assistant director of employment services at NHS Employers, said: “Making overseas recruitment work is not easy and employers think long and hard before embarking upon international campaign activity - these results show us yet again that this is the reality faced by many employers.

“We need a mature conversation about managed migration to support the delivery of safe and high quality care. The whole system needs to consider immediately how we support this to happen in an ethical, co-ordinated and efficient way as well as ensuring other actions are taken now to impact in the medium term.”

Story update: 3/11/2014 at 14:41




HR managers on whistleblowing

More than half of HR directors believe the review of whistleblowing in the NHS led by Sir Robert Francis QC will help to improve the confidence of staff to raise concerns in their organisation.

But three quarters of managers responding to HSJ’s survey also said they had seen more staff inappropriately claiming whistleblowing status in the past six months.

Caroline Waterfield, assistant director of employment services at NHS Employers said: “Higher levels of reporting are to be welcomed and encouraged - some of these may well turn out to be ‘inappropriate’ but this can only be determined through investigation and staff shouldn’t be deterred from raising what they believe to be legitimate concerns.”

The review, set up by health secretary Jeremy Hunt, is examining the issue of whistleblowing and how it can be improved.

It is expected to be published by the end of November.

Exclusive survey: HR managers back end to pay restraint