Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has hinted that, as part of the ‘pay structure modernisation’ revealed in the Budget last week, he is looking to reform the system of pay increments within the Agenda for Change contract.
But Mr Hunt was clear that he had no desire to ‘reduce the total amount paid to the NHS workforce’ with these changes, and that it was not about saving money, but moving to a more ‘professional structure’.
Speaking to the Health Service Journal, Mr Hunt referenced the contract for junior doctors, agreed with the BMA last year, describing it as ‘quite a sensible one’.
He said: ‘Across the public sector we have been wanting to move towards more professional pay structures. I think the biggest area that we have wanted to reform for a long time is the system of increments – in particular, payments that simply relate to time served rather than any measurable increase in professional abilities.
‘We are still going to have premiums for antisocial hour payments. Funnily enough, the model that we ended up agreeing with the British Medical Association for the junior doctors’ contract is quite a sensible one, which is essentially higher pay for the more weekends you work.’
He added that discussions with the unions so far had been ‘productive’, describing them as ‘open’ to the talks around pay.
Commenting on Mr Hunt’s interview, a spokesperson for the Royal College of Nursing said: ‘He provides welcome confirmation on keeping unsocial hours payments but he appears to be ill-briefed on the increments system. They are not automatic and recognise career progression, not simply time in a post.
‘The RCN will not accept the Government’s productivity argument as a condition of a pay rise and we will not support any reduction in terms and conditions.’