• NHS Employers are confident trusts will implement rules to end pay drift 
  • Out of hours pay reform was “not a priority” during negotiations 
  • Pay progression will not be automatic and staff must demonstrate they have met standards 
  • Staff at top of their band will get 6.5 per cent pay rise over three years

NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer has said he is confident NHS trusts will implement reforms to prevent automatic pay rises following a deal on the Agenda for Change contract.

Asked if he was confident trusts would make the changes he said he was, and added there was a “clear expectation” on hospitals to implement the reforms to pay progression.

“Each time we’ve reformed Agenda for Change, our management of that process has got better,” Mr Mortimer said.

Previous reforms of Agenda for Change have attempted to link pay progression to staff meeting objectives but in evidence to the pay review body last year the Department for Health and Social Care said pay progression was “near automatic” in most NHS organisations.

The new pay progression system – which will be backdated to April 2018 and implemented in the summer – will see the removal of some pay points which will enable staff in bands 2-7 to reach the top of their band more quickly. A band five nurse currently takes seven years to reach the top level but under the new deal it will take four years. A band two worker will reach the top of their band in just two years compared with the current six.

The deal also introduces a “minimum period of time” staff will have to wait before progressing to the next pay point and the deal underlines this progression cannot be automatic and will be linked to staff meeting appraisal standards and objectives.

It will also require line managers and staff to follow a submission process so they can access the next pay point and require employers to provide information to enable monitoring of the pay of employees with protected characteristics.

Mr Mortimer also stressed that out of hours pay “was not a shared priority” for employers and the unions. 

“We have hopefully found a balance between rewarding staff who are in post now and attracting colleagues to work alongside them over the longer term.”

Other details in the deal include:

  • A work programme to assess the factors affecting levels of attendance and a review of the current absence management system. Mr Mortimer said employers were“not in a position [to] set a target to reduce sickness absence”.
  • Exploring if there is scope for a collective framework for bank and agency working.
  • Rationalisation of unsocial hours payment arrangements given to all ambulance staff.
  • New staff appointed from July 2018 will not have access to unsocial hours pay during sick leave.
  • An increase in the minimum salary with a new rate of basic pay of £17,460, up from £15,251
  • The value of the top points of each band will increase by 6.5 per cent cumulatively between April 2018 and April 2020 for bands 2-8c.
  • The lowest paid 1 per cent of staff in band one will receive a 29 per cent wage increase.
  • Workers at the top pay points in bands 8d and nine will have their pay rise capped at £2,075, equivalent to the value of the rise for staff at the top of band 8c.

NHS Providers policy and strategy director Saffron Cordery said it was welcome that pay increases are tiered and will benefit those on lower pay bands the greatest.

She said: “We are also pleased that the additional funding will be routed directly through providers, at least for the first year.

“The agreement will provide much needed clarity for staff and for trusts. A fair pay deal is an important part of improving the working lives of staff, but we also have to be mindful of the other elements behind high vacancy rates if we are to keep them in the NHS.”

Royal College of Nursing chief executive Janet Davies said the union will be asking members to vote in favour of the deal.

Unison head of health Sarah Gorton said the aim of the agreement was to deliver a benefit to all staff: “This is not the only answer but it is important about turning the tide on recruitment issues.”

Ms Gorton confirmed consultation on the framework would be concluded by the end of May.

If accepted by members, the pay rise is expected to take effect in July.

  • This story was updated at 10am on 22 March

Ministers and unions agree Agenda for Change pay and reform deal