The “integrity” of the NHS Pay Review Body is being compromised by the government’s decision to take the same approach to pay next year, the RCN claims.
A letter sent to members of the Pay Review Body by Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the treasury, said there is a “strong need” for continued restraint on public sector pay.
Alexander said that the government will take the “same approach” to pay as earlier this year, when it decided against a 1% pay rise for many NHS staff.
In the letter, Alexander writes: “The NHS trade unions are not prepared to negotiate an affordable alternative, although we are still open to new proposals. Therefore it is our intention to take the same approach in 2015/16.
“The fiscal forecast shows the public finances returning to a more sustainable position. However, the fiscal challenge remains and the government believes that the case for continued pay restraint across the public sector remains strong.”
Royal College of Nurses (RCN) chief executive Dr Peter Carter said he would be “failing in his duty” if he did not express concerns about the decision.
Dr Carter has written to Alexander pointing out that these decisions are having a very real and serious effect on nurse morale and recruitment and retention and outlining the RCN’s strong concerns that by ignoring the PRB’s pay recommendation for this year and announcing that none is needed for next, the government is seriously compromising the integrity of the pay review body.
His letter reads: “The RCN has repeatedly warned of the damage to morale and motivation of nurses unless steps were taken to make up some of the ground lost over the last few years. We also warned of the serious knock on effect on the recruitment and retention of nursing staff. These warnings are sadly now a reality on the ground.
“Continuing to deny the majority of nursing staff a fair pay rise will only perpetuate and exacerbate these issues, which is bad for the profession, for the health service and ultimately Britain. To assert that NHS trade unions are not prepared to negotiate an affordable alternative is disingenuous.
"All trade unions have consistently said that we would welcome constructive discussion about a fair pay settlement for NHS nursing staff. We have also said we would discuss further measures to improve productivity in the NHS and keep the pay system up to date. Unfortunately, such discussions are not possible while the government continues to take the view that cutting staff pay is the only way we can secure the future of our NHS.”