• NHS Pay Review Body says workforce gap is of significant concern
  • Report flags a lack of “clear ownership and accountability” within the health service to address the workforce challenges
  • NHS organisations should not underestimate work needed to implement new pay deal, body says

The NHS Pay Review Body has warned ministers that the workforce gap in the health service “will persist until 2027” unless action is taken.

In a report on the recently announced agenda for change pay deal, the PRB said it is concerned there is a lack of “clear ownership and accountability” within the health service to address the workforce challenges.

It warned that “supply and recruitment of agenda for change staff…require long lead times to solve” and added: “There is a workforce gap which is creating an unsustainably high level of vacancies, work pressures and potential risks to patient care.

“There are some plans in place, which contain significant risks, to bridge that gap by 2021, but the gap will persist to 2027 if there is no action on workforce numbers, productivity or service redesign.”

The PRB welcomed the recent pay deal reached between the government and staffing unions, in which staff will get an average pay rise of 3 per cent for 2018-19, followed by 2 per cent in 2019-20, and 1 per cent in 2020-21.

It said additional funding provided by the government (in which £800m was added to the 2018-19 baseline) will ensure that the cost to NHS organisations arising from the pay deal are “affordable”, but proposed that a “separate funding mechanism” would ensure the additional funding reaches NHS organisations.

Last year, the PRB had called on the government to take action against pay restraint, and it said the new deal “begins to respond to its conclusions on recruitment, retention and motivation”.

However, the report also warned that the removal of the nurse bursary in England has resulted in a 20 per cent reduction in applications to AfC related degrees in the UK, and there may be “risks over the quality of entrants” if applications continue to drop.

It also said NHS organisations “should not underestimate the substantial volume of work required to implement the new system [of pay progression]”.

Lord O’Shaughnessy, a junior health minister, said that the government accepted the observations in the report, while Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “We are pleased the NHS Pay Review Body has recognised and endorsed the joint agreement reached between NHS Employers and the NHS trade unions.

“Joint work will continue and will now focus on the full implementation of all provisions of the agreement. The fully funded nature of the agreement will ensure it is affordable for NHS organisations.”

Phillippa Hentsch, head of analysis at NHS Providers, said: “We welcome that the Pay Review Body will play a role in monitoring the impact of the three year deal and whether the funding allocated to cover this is reaching the frontline.”

GMB union to consult members over deal

The GMB trade union, which represents thousands of ambulance staff, was the only one of 14 health unions not to accept the pay deal. It said it would hold a “consultative ballot” next month to measure the strength of feeling among its members, but said this was not a strike ballot.