NHS trade unions have suspended a 12 hour strike planned for Thursday, with the government appearing to give in to demands for a 1 per cent pay rise to all non-medical staff.
Unions will now consult their members on the offer, which follows several meetings with Department of Health officials and health secretary Jeremy Hunt in recent days.
HSJ understands the government’s offer is of a consolidated, or pensionable, 1 per cent pay rise for all staff up to band 8B on the Agenda for Change pay framework, with an additional £200 consolidated payment for lower paid staff on pay points 3-8.
In a letter of offer to unions, seen by HSJ, Mr Hunt said the pay offer would apply to 1.1m staff under Agenda for Change.
The DH this evening claimed its proposal would not increase the overall NHS paybill for 2015-16, due to two other elements of the proposed deal, which had enabled it to make the 1 per cent offer.
The first is an agreement that staff earning more than £40,558 will not receive an increment rise in April this year. The second is an agreement to to hold talks over a possible cap on redundancy payments to staff leaving the NHS from April 2015, with a proposed cap of £160,000.
The government’s offer also includes a request for unions to commit to talks on further reform of Agenda for Change, with an intention of implementing changes from April 2016.
The deal also includes a commitment from the government for the NHS Pay Review Body to continue to make future recommendations on pay uplifts for NHS staff in 2016-17.
Unions held two four hour strikes last year after the government rejected the review body’s recommendation of a 1 per cent pay increase, claiming it would lead to nursing staff redundancies.
They had been planning to work to rule between 30 January and 24 February, followed by a 24 hour strike on 25 February.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “This is good news for patients, and I welcome the unions calling off strike action. We have consistently said that we wouldn’t agree a pay deal that risked frontline jobs and therefore patient safety. This offer achieves that – the NHS paybill will not increase next year, while we reward hardworking staff.”
Unison head of health and lead negotiator Christina McAnea said: “The two strike days staged by health workers last year have moved the government to negotiate with the unions.
“This isn’t a great offer but it addresses some of the key concerns unions have about low pay in the NHS. In the interest of patients’ safety unions will now consult members.
“It will be up to members to decide whether to accept or reject the proposals. If they choose to reject them we will move to further industrial action.”
The Royal College of Midwives has confirmed it will suspend industrial action and recommend members accept the offer.
RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick said: “I am pleased the government came to the negotiating table to seek a solution. I believe this offer represents the best that can be achieved by negotiations.”
NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer said he was “delighted” Thursday’s strike had been called off, saying: “It is the right decision for patients and puts us all in a better position to start talking about long term solutions.
“If the unions proceed to fully accept the proposed pay agreement it will demonstrate a commitment and signal the start of a period of negotiations to deliver long term pay reform in the NHS. This needs to ensure that the pay system helps the NHS to provide better, safer and more responsive services to patients and lead to a more efficient use of NHS resources.”