• No plan to fund Agenda for Change pay rises for local authority commissioned services in 2019-20
  • Several trusts say this would cost them at least £1m each
  • Warning it will push some into deficit for the first time
  • DHSC still considering options

Trusts providing public health services will be pushed into deficit because there is no plan to fund them for pay rises granted nationally to NHS staff, providers have warned.

The issue, which several trusts said would cost them at least £1m, has been raised with national officials, and the Department of Health and Social Care said it was still considering options.

For 2018-19, the cost of Agenda for Change pay rises is being funded by government, via NHS Improvement and employers, including for staff working on public health services which are commissioned by local authorities.

However, for 2019-20, the pay rise is instead being funded for most trusts by an adjustment to NHS payment tariffs. This means it will not be covered for the local authority-funded services as they do not work to the NHS tariff.

The providers of the services include many community and mental health trusts, a small number of acute trusts, and some independent sector organisations. They have argued the cost was created by the national policy to increase AfC pay, so should be funded nationally, and pointed out this principle was applied in 2018-19.

Services affected include sexual health, health visiting and school nursing.

Many of the providers affected have remained in financial balance in recent years, while the vast majority of acute trusts have recorded deficits, but their representatives say this issue will tip some into deficit for the first time. Moving trusts out of deficit is a national priority in 2019-20.

Matthew Winn, chair of the Community Network and chief executive of Cambridgeshire Community Services Trust, said: “These essential NHS services appear to have been missed out when the national increase in NHS expenditure has been divided up.

“[They] must be treated exactly the same as any other NHS service, especially as the financial and demand pressures on them are greater than across many other health services.

“If this issue is not resolved in February/March, many providers with a long track record of managing their finances will, for the first time ever, be plunged into deficit financial positions in 2019-20.”

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said the contracts could account for up to a quarter of income and thousands of staff, and “will be the difference between being in surplus and in deficit” for some.

“These are important services which patients see as part of the NHS, delivered by registered professionals,” he said. “The government committed to fully fund the cost… in the current financial year. We must ensure the same happens next year.”

A DHSC spokesman said: “We are clear that all eligible staff should receive the pay uplift they are entitled to.

“Decisions on how our funding is allocated to reflect the impact of AfC pay on commissioners, including public health, are currently being considered and we will confirm the arrangements for 2019-20 in due course.”

NHSI deferred comment to DHSC.