Next year’s pay rise for NHS staff could be linked to changes in their working practices to help force more seven-day working, it has emerged.

HSJ understands NHS Employers will argue for the second year running that pay for the 1.4 million strong NHS workforce should be frozen, claiming a 1 per cent rise would add £500m to the NHS pay bill.

But in its submission to the health service’s pay review body, NHS Employers will also try to persuade its members to back an idea to make any future pay rise part of possible contract reforms.

It will ask the pay review body to consider recommending that any pay rise should not be added to employees’ base salary but instead made part of a package to help negotiatiate changes to working practices.

The money could then form part of a package offer to NHS doctors, nurses and other staff to persuade unions to accept more weekend working.

The idea comes as NHS Employers is about to begin contract negotiations with both junior doctors and NHS consultants during which seven day working is expected to form a major part of the discussions.

If the pay review body accepts the recommendation it could mean NHS Employers will seek further changes to the Agenda for Change framework - despite a new deal being agreed in February this year.

Seven day working logo

Seven day working

Unions have submitted their own evidence to the pay review body, claiming NHS staff have not had a real-terms pay increase since 2006. NHS Employers is expected to show ‘pay drift’ due to staff moving up increments means 55 per cent of staff will receive basic pay increases averaging 3.4 per cent in 2013-14.

Unions claim the government’s ongoing below inflation pay cap of 1 per cent means NHS staff have suffered a real-terms pay cut equivalent to 8-12 per cent.

Christina McAnea, joint chair of the NHS staff council and head of health at Unison, said the real terms pay cut of 10 per cent over two years and the NHS reorganisation had “led to low morale and high stress levels”.

Josie Irwin from the Royal College of Nursing, and joint secretary of the NHS staff council, said: “Claiming that fair wages cannot be afforded, while the latest figures show senior managers have enjoyed substantial pay increases, sends the message to frontline staff that their contributions are not valued, which is bad for staff and bad for the NHS.”

Recent data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre showed NHS staff’s average annual basic pay in the 12 months to June 2013 was £29,543.

Doctors, excluding locums and GPs, earned £58,813 - a 1.4 per cent increase on 2012 and a 5.5 per cent increase on 2009. Consultants received a 0.5 per cent rise, taking them to £87,584, while doctors in training saw a pay increase of 1 per cent, to £26,056.

Qualified nurses including midwives and health visitors were paid an average of £30,619, a 0.6 per cent increase on 2012 and a 7.5 per cent increase on 2009.

Senior managers saw the largest percentage increase on 2012 at 1.8 per cent, up to £75,759, and also the largest percentage increase on 2009, at 12.9 per cent.

The consumer price index measure of inflation has 2.8 per cent in July.