NHS Employers has launched a bid to reduce the impact of incremental pay rises in the NHS, it has been revealed.

Details of the changes employers want to make to the Agenda for Change pay framework were given by Unison’s head of health Christina McAnea at the union’s conference in Brighton.

One employers source confirmed that it was seeking to make changes to the framework.

According to Ms McAnea, under the early proposals from the employer side, automatic incremental pay rises would be scrapped for Band 5 staff in their first two-year preceptorship.

For all other bands employers want a ceiling to be put in place beyond which incremental pay would be discretionary, based on performance.

Meanwhile, the employers want to see an end to enhanced payments to staff who are on sick leave.

Incremental pay rises in the NHS - which average 2.5 per cent - are continuing place the health service under financial pressure, increasing the overall paybill, despite providers facing tougher financial challenges.

Health service deputy chief executive David Flory has previously told the HSJ the issue could leave the NHS “bust” if it is not tackled.

The proposals were met with derision by some conference delegates who expressed fears employers were attempting to chip away at workers’ terms and conditions.

In a statement to HSJ, Dean Royles, director of the NHS Employers organisation, said: “All pay systems develop over time and we hope that by engaging early we can do things that refine rather than lead to radical overall. Without mature national discussion the local appetite for radical change will accelerate.”

Unison, along with other unions, is launching a bid to get the views of members on the proposals before formal discussions start in the summer.

Trusts already have the ability to use performance to decide whether to approve incremental pay rises but many trusts lack the HR capacity or knowledge to do this routinely.

Ms McAnea told HSJ the employers’ suggestions had been raised in informal discussions but were not formal proposals which had been subject to negotiation.

She said: “The employers are serious about this and we know this is already happening in some areas of England. We hope by trying to resolve things nationally those discussions will go away.”

She said Unison had yet to develop a formal position on the proposals and said the bid to get members’ views was not a formal consultation.

“Agenda for Change already allows the use of performance issues to determine if someone gets a pay rise. The fact they don’t have the systems in place to do that, is their responsibility,” she said. She added: “They seem to want to re-state the case.”

Ms McAnea said Agenda For Change was not an “historical” document that would never be altered.

She said: “It will evolve and change. All national agreements have to be relevant and appropriate to members and employers.”

She urged local branches and regions to give their views on the proposals during May and June, along with other health service unions, ahead of a Staff Council meeting in June.

Earlier in the day the conference supported a motion to campaign for legally enforceable minimum staffing levels on hospital wards.

Members also voted for regulation of healthcare assistants to include a code of conduct on standards and a regulatory body similar to the Nursing and Midwifery Council or General Medical Council.