The Government has budgeted for a pay rise of just 2% for nurses on Agenda for Change contracts in the 2023 pay review, according to analysts.
The Health Foundation, a leading healthcare think tank, has warned that the Government is likely to be only prepared to offer a pay rise at this level, across all NHS staff, as part of a bid to curb inflation.
Anita Charlesworth, The Health Foundation’s director of research, told Nursing in Practice that the estimate of the Government’s budget was based on the Government’s remit letter to the independent NHS Pay Review Body which was sent in November last year.
The Government’s letter stated: ‘in the current economic context, it is particularly important that you also have regard to the government’s inflation target when forming recommendations’.
Ms Charlesworth said that since the Government’s inflation target is 2%, ‘we can interpret the remit letter line pointing to Government having budgeted for a 2% pay rise for NHS staff in 2023/24’.
However, Ms Charlesworth also stressed that since this is not yet ‘set out in writing’ this possible nurses pay rise is only potential and could be subject to change.
The statement has already drawn strong criticism from the RCN, which has been leading nurses across the country in strike action, following a pay rise of 4% that was offered last summer.
RCN general secretary and chief executive, Pat Cullen, said: ‘Rishi Sunak has to decide if this is the way he wants to spend the new year. He can battle against NHS staff who are dealing with a crisis at work or he can grasp the nettle and negotiate with us.
‘It is in everybody’s interest to reach agreement, compromise and let nursing staff focus on what they do best. He has a fortnight before further strikes and I’m asking him to think hard. I won’t dig in if he doesn’t dig in.’
The RCN is set to lead strikes at 55 NHS trusts in England on the 18th and 19th of January after no pay negotiations were held following two days of strikes in December.
‘This government’s mismanagement of the NHS is leaving it in a perilous position. Valuing nurses more than he does currently is part of the solution for Sunak – the public is one step ahead of him in showing nursing staff the support they deserve.’
This follows reports that health secretary Steve Barclay is considering bringing this years pay review period, usually in spring or summer, forward earlier in the year in an effort to avoid strikes.
The health secretary has so far refrained from entering into formal pay negotiations with the union, maintaining that this is a matter for the NHS pay review body.