PAY R EFORM Service primed for Agenda for Change implementation

Published: 02/12/2004, Volume II4, No. 5934 Page 13

Agenda for Change implementation could take longer than forecast, but 80 per cent of the service is 'geared up and ready' to start national rollout this week, according to Department of Health workforce director Andrew Foster.

Mr Foster said the September 2005 deadline for national roll-out of the 'largest-ever' programme of pay reform was based on estimates by early-implementer trusts. The department will be monitoring progress over the next year to see whether the deadline is realistic for the rest.

'There is an element of judgement that we hope will be accurate but we will be keeping a close eye as it goes on, ' he told HSJ.

However, there would not be the kind of delay between agreement and implementation experienced in other contract reforms. 'Quite often I am comparing with the lessons of the consultant contract, where there was quite a pause before it got started, ' Mr Foster said. 'There will not be that pause on Agenda for Change. People are ready to go from now.' Agenda for Change was finally officially agreed and signed off last week, and the official startdate for national implementation was yesterday.

Last week it emerged that the Society of Radiographers - the only union to reject the deal - looked likely to agree to co-operate after the DoH offered 11th-hour reassurances.

Mr Foster warned the NHS that pay reform had to go hand in hand with wider cultural changes.

'Agenda for Change is a way of changing the way we do business, in the way that we employ staff, in a way that can be hugely positive for staff and managers as well, ' he said.

'It is about the hearts and minds of the NHS. If you simply do this as a functional task because You have been told to, you probably will not feel that you are achieving your objectives.' Mr Foster is confident that the vast majority of strategic health authorities are now ready for the change despite his own analysis in September that only 65 per cent had a board-level plan and a financial budget in place.

'Those figures were a shade on the disappointing side, but it is perhaps understandable because at that stage we hadn't even released the financial models - that wasn't published until mid-October, ' he said.

Mr Foster said trusts would be measured against monthly implementation milestones and those that slip behind would receive support.