conference focus

Published: 30/05/2002, Volume II2, No. 5807 Page 12

Pay and employment negotiations are set to be devolved from the Department of Health to 'NHS employers collectively', health secretary Alan Milburn announced on Thursday.

The policy is based on the perceived success of negotiations between the NHS Confederation and the British Medical Association over the GP contract.

Mr Milburn said: 'It is a good model because it seems to have worked in the case of the GPs, but it is also right in principle.'

He continued: 'The bizarre thing is, I am not the employer [of NHS staff] in law. The trust or local health service is. So it is anomalous to have national contract of employment issues always undertaken by the DoH. Those responsible for employing staff have to be able to negotiate contracts.'

Mr Milburn added: 'Agenda for Change will establish a national framework for pay. But in the end, its implementation will work on the basis of what happens locally.'

NHS Confederation policy manager Alistair Henderson said the detail of how NHS employers could undertake contractual negotiations had to be fleshed out.

Mr Henderson said there were models of how it could work, including that of local government, where the employers had the Local Government Association to undertake negotiations, or by the Confederation 'providing people to sit on a negotiating body'.