Fresh calls have been made on the government to ensure any pay offer for NHS staff in England is fully funded outside of existing budgets.
This week, nurses across England began voting in union ballots on whether to accept or reject an additional one-off award for 2022/23 and a 5% pay rise for 2023/24.
In his statement on Tuesday, health secretary Steve Barclay said the move was ‘a hugely positive step after weeks of constructive talks’.
He claimed the offer was ‘fair and balanced’ and recognised the ‘vital role’ of NHS staff, while also ‘protecting’ the government’s commitment to halve inflation.
‘I’m working with the Treasury to ensure my department has the money it needs to fully fund this pay offer, which will include additional funding and reprioritising existing budgets,’ added Mr Barclay.
He added that this would come ‘on top of the existing funding’ made available for an NHS pay rise of up to 3.5% in 2023/24.
But healthcare leaders, NHS Providers and the NHS Confederation, have both responded by once again urging the government to fully fund an NHS pay deal without dipping into existing NHS budgets.
Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive at NHS Providers, said there was ‘no fat left to trim in health and care budgets’ and described the ongoing lack of clarity over funding for NHS pay as ‘deeply worrying’.
‘Any pay uplift agreed between the government and unions must be funded by new money,’ he added.
‘Reprioritising existing budgets could drain funding from other vital areas of the NHS in the long term, putting frontline NHS services at risk of being cut or severely scaled back.’
These concerns follow that raised by the Local Government Association and the Institute of Health Visiting who are worried about the potential impact an increased NHS pay offer could have on public health services, if cutbacks have to be made to help fund the deal.
Meanwhile, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said that while the organisation welcomed the ‘reassurance’ that work is underway with the Treasury, ‘it is still unclear if part of the uplift will need to be funded from existing NHS budgets’.
Mr Taylor added: ‘NHS leaders have always been clear that any pay offer for 2023/24 must be fully funded outside of existing budgets otherwise there will be inevitable consequences for patient care. We await details of the funding arrangements in due course.’