Published: 20/12/2001, Volume III, No. 5786 Page 7

The pay review bodies' award of a 3.6 per cent rise for hospital doctors and nursing staff received a mixed reaction this week, with the main unions underwhelmed while the NHS Confederation welcomed 'a reasonable balance' between affordability and the need to recruit and retain staff.

The announcement also saw uplifts for target groups.

NHS Confederation policy manager Alistair Henderson said the settlement was 'a good and fair deal for staff '.

'We are committed to a longterm improvement in salaries.

This is the fourth year in a row that pay rises have been above inflation - That is a significant realterms increase. We believe it will assist recruitment and retention.'

But Royal College of Nursing general secretary Beverley Malone said nurses would be 'sorely let down'.

'Pay is the single most effective factor to increase recruitment, improve retention and to demonstrate to nurses that they are valued. This award is not good enough.The reality is that an experienced staff nurse (grade E), earning just over£18,000 a year, will see an increase of only£9 a week.'

Unison national secretary for health Paul Marks welcomed the 'mini cash tonic' for unregistered staff on grades A and B, who will receive additional increments for gaining NVQs, and the 50 per cent increase in on-call and standby payments. But he added: 'There is, however, a long way to go. Even after this award, non-registered staff will still be low paid.' The award would not 'close the gap between nurses and other public services, such as police and teachers'.

British Medical Association chair Dr Ian Bogle said the awards were 'not unexpected in view of the transition to new contracts for both GPs and consultants'.

The BMA said consultants would find the 3.6 per cent award 'disappointing'. But GP committee chair Dr John Chisholm said the 4.6 per cent rise for GPs showed that the review body had 'listened to the overwhelming evidence of the crisis in general practice'.

Royal College of Midwives general secretary Dame Karlene Davis welcomed the rise, adding: 'The significant rise in on-call allowances is important to midwives who provide a 24-hour service.'

MSF head of health Roger Spiller said the increase was 'great news for our health visitors', who were covered by the pay review body.

But former health secretary Frank Dobson launched a swingeing attack on the review bodies.

Speaking at a Fabian Society meeting last week, before the pay announcement, he said: 'I am convinced that nurses and midwives are grossly underpaid, and I mean grossly underpaid, and the present pay review body system is a total failure. He wanted to see 'a really large pay increase', which he told HSJ 'would have to be well into the teens'.

Unison has submitted a claim for 'a grand in the hand' -£1,000 or a 5 per cent rise, whichever is greater - for NHS staff not covered by the pay review bodies. It is also seeking a 35-hour week.

Figuring it out: GPs GPs will get a 4.6 per cent rise, while GP registrars will receive 3.6 per cent plus an increase in out-of-hours payments from 30 per cent to 50 per cent of basic salary - which 'effectively amounts to a 19.5 per cent pay increase', the Department of Health said.