The NHS Confederation has warned that pay caps announced today by the chancellor need to be handled with care to avoid staff shortages and disruption of services.

Commenting on the chancellor’s announcement of a 1 per cent cap on public sector pay rises, NHS Confederation chief executive Steve Barnett said: “A one per cent cap on public sector pay settlements in 2011-12 and 2012-13 is hardly surprising, but any changes need to be carefully managed to avoid creating shortages of trained staff or disruption of services.

Any changes need to be carefully managed to avoid creating shortages of trained staff or disruption of services.

Steve Barnett, NHS Confederation

“There will remain an important role for pay review bodies in relation to pay and the announcement of reforms to pensions in the NHS has already been agreed. The scheme is both self funding and there is already is a cap on pension contributions.”

He welcomed Mr Darling’s confirmation that spending on the NHS will continue to rise in line with inflation after 2011, but said: “There will still be a real pressure on budgets.

“Savings and efficiencies of between £15-20bn need to be found in the NHS in the next five years and today’s announcement only serves to confirm the scale of the challenge which lies ahead.“

Alongside his pledge to increase “frontline” NHS spending, Mr Darling announced that spending growth will fall to 0.8 per cent between 2011-2012 and 2014-2015. He warned that this slower spending growth would mean cuts to some departmental budgets.