Senior NHS managers are being asked to sign a declaration drafted by NHS Employers setting out their reasons for supporting a two year freeze in staff pay increments in exchange for “no compulsory redundancy” guarantees.
The letter is currently being sent around NHS organisations for discussion and redrafting. However the original draft is published today on hsj.co.uk (below).
Although the letter has been circulated by NHS Employers, HSJ understands at least one trade union was also involved in the discussions that led to the letter being drafted, as it is keen to promote the proposed deal and over turn negative feedback from both its rank and file members, and its national representatives who are concerned NHS organisations may renege on the no compulsory redundancy side of the deal and that the need for the NHS to make substantial savings has been exagerated.
The email circulating the draft letter, from NHS Employers director for core services Gill Bellord, states: “We think it essential that the strength of employer views and the rationale for withholding increments are made public.”
Ms Bellord goes on to explain that those who have been sent the letter are either those who have already agreed to sign or who have been identified as likely to be in agreement. The email and letter have been further circulated throughout the NHS.
The letter, which NHS Employers planned to be published across the health service and medical press on New Year’s Eve, states: “We the undersigned support the need to make such a proposal and believe that the proposal is one we are very willing to work with. This letter aims to make clear the reasons why trusts see this proposal as a win for them and a win for staff.
“Although the NHS has been offered significant protection of funding, rising costs and increasing demand for patient care make the next two years a huge challenge and we expect to have to make efficiency savings of well over 5 per cent per year. [S]alaries represent 60 to 70 per cent of our costs so do we need to explore measures to contain the pay bill. NHS Employers’ proposal represents a practical way forward which maintains the integrity of the nationally agreed pay systems.”
Ms Bellord told HSJ the letter was being sent by NHS Employers on behalf of managers. It had been “prompted by the service”, she said, after NHS Employers received a number of calls from chief executives in support of the proposed deal.
The proposed deal would freeze Agenda for Change increments for two years in exchange for a no compulsory redundancy guarantee for staff on pay bands 1 to 6. However staff on higher bands would not be given guarantees as it is thought harder to redeploy staff who generally have a higher level of specialism and expertise.
Unison’s senior national officer for health Mike Jackson said his union had no involvement in drafting the letter.
He told HSJ: “Our service group executive is due to meet on January 10 and will have to decide whether to accept, reject or consider the plan further.
“With the surpluses in parts of the system there is scope for a no-compulsory-redundancies deal. But is it [the increment freeze] a price our members are willing to pay? We have yet to make that decision.”
He said all the relevant unions were due to meet separately to discuss the offer between the 10 and 20 of January.
Josie Irwin, head of employment relations at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “We find it interesting that the employers should be seeking support for their proposal in this way and at this time.
“We can say categorically that the RCN was not involved in drafting this letter and find it difficult to believe that any other union would be.”
Read the letter distributed by NHS Employers in full below:
You have reported on the NHS Employers proposals to the Staff Side of the NHS Staff Council for a national framework agreement involving a freeze in incremental progression which NHS Organisations can use where there is agreement locally.
In summary, each organisation adopting the framework would freeze pay increments for all staff for a two year period and guarantee not to make compulsory redundancies for staff earning at or below the equivalent of the maximum of Agenda for Change Band 6 during the same period
We the undersigned support the need to make such a proposal and believe that the proposal is one we are very willing to work with. This letter aims to make clear the reasons why Trusts see this proposal as a win for them and a win for staff. Although the NHS has been offered significant protection of funding in the most recent spending round, rising costs and increasing demand for patient care make the next two years a huge challenge and we expect to have to make efficiency savings of well over 5 per cent per year. We are looking at all areas of expenditure to find savings but salaries represent 60 to 70 per cent of our costs so do we need to explore measures to contain the pay bill. NHS Employers’ proposal represents a practical way forward which maintains the integrity of the nationally agreed pay systems.
Each of our organisations has plans to improve quality and productivity over the period of the spending review, but these will take time to deliver benefits. In the mean time we want to maximise employment security for our staff and retain their skills in the NHS. We know from local feedback and surveys that Trade Unions have undertaken, that job security is a key concern for staff. We will be having a very open dialogue with our staff locally so that the benefit of these ideas can be explored with them
In summary, we believe that this is a fair deal and one that can be delivered. It is not only desirable as a way of dealing with financial pressures it is essential in order to be able to protect employment and staffing levels.