Published: 14/10/2004, Volume II4, No. 5927 Page 10

The government has announced an extra£30m funding for the Agenda for Change national rollout following prolonged pressure from unions.

Unions, including the Royal College of Nursing and Unison, have been campaigning for trusts to make solid financial commitments to the costs of implementing AfC.

Part of this pressure is for 'backfill' - funding to cover for union representatives while they are engaged in AfC work.

The official announcement was made last week on the morning before the Unison national executive voted to recommend to accept the pay deal.

Announcing the extra funding - which will be distributed to trusts via strategic health authorities - health minister John Hutton said that meeting the costs of 'backfill' would be 'the first priority for the extra resource'.

Unison head of health Karen Jennings welcomed the commitment to extra funding: 'There is no doubt that the additional£30m is an important step forward, ' she said.

Early implementers - which were allocated either£80,000 or£100,000 based on head count - had reported that 'back-filling' staffside posts accounted for over 80 per cent of implementation costs.

This week the DoH published a booklet for all staff explaining how the system will work.

Ballot papers recommending a 'yes' vote for Agenda for Change were sent to 450,000 Unison health members this week after 70 per cent of national executive members voted to recommend acceptance of the new pay deal at a special conference.

The acceptance vote last week was secured on the condition that members are balloted on new proposals for 'unsocial hours' pay.

This is being reviewed after it was found to be expensive and unpopular with staff at earlyimplementer sites.