The nursing profession may have outgrown the Agenda for Change pay system, an independent body that advises the Government has said.
The Government last week accepted the NHS Pay Review Body’s (PRB) recommendation of a 3% pay rise for staff on Agenda for Change contracts in England for 2021/22, backdated from 1 April 2021. Ministers had previously suggested an uplift of 1%.
But the NHS PRB report also urged the Government, employers and staff representatives to consider whether the Agenda for Change (AfC) system ‘accurately reflects the relative job weight of the realities, complexities and development trajectories of nursing as a modern graduate profession’.
Although newly qualified nurses earn more than the average graduate, earnings ‘do not keep pace with other graduate earnings over the course of a career’, it said. This ‘raises the question of whether the AfC system fully reflects the professional demands on nurses and their contribution to the NHS’.
The NHS PRB also used its report to outline why it recommended a 3% pay rise in its report, following the end to the three-year pay deal agreed in 2018.
Although the Department of Health and Social Care reported that any award over 1% would mean less funding for wider NHS investments, the NHS PRB argued that ‘it is important this year that pay does not become a factor encouraging staff to leave’.
NHS staff are ‘exhausted’ from the Covid pandemic yet will be expected to put in ’sustained effort and commitment’ this year because of the likely ‘abnormally high level of demand facing the NHS’, it added.
The report concluded: ‘Having a well-motivated workforce is key if the NHS is to deal with the challenges ahead. This year, the pay award and what it is seen to say about the value of AfC staff will have a significant impact on morale and motivation.’
Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has awarded its staff a 4% pay rise, while the Welsh Government last week announced a 3% pay deal in line with England. The Government in Northern Ireland is yet to announced its decision.
Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales gave one-off payments to their healthcare staff because of the pandemic, all worth around £500 after tax. This leaves England as the only UK nation not to have done so.
The Government froze pay awards for most of the public sector last year but allowed a pay rise for NHS staff because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
But former health and social care secretary Matt Hancock, who was replaced by Sajid Javid last month, asked the NHS PRB pay recommendations to take into consideration the ‘extremely challenging fiscal and economic context’ when he wrote to them in December 2020.