HR professionals have welcomed a radical overhaul of the NHS announced last week that will change working practices and give staff a 10 per cent basic pay increase over three years.
Elaine Way, president of the Association of Healthcare Human Resource Management (AHHRM), said the organisation has been closely involved in the 'Agenda for Change' discussions for three years and was pleased with the final outcome.
"AHHRM sees 'Agenda for Change' as a win-win situation. It will facilitate new ways of working to support service modernisation and it will fairly reward staff for gaining and applying new skills," she said.
A myriad of different pay structures will be replaced by a simpler system, covering nurses, technicians and ambulance staff.
Way said a modernised pay system should aid recruitment and retention and provide a better, more consistent patient service.
The pay proposals are now out to consultation, which will involve HR professionals.
Way warned that if the new pay deal is approved, there will be huge challenges for HR teams.
She said HR will need to ensure appropriate systems and training plans are in place to support successful implementation.
It is planned to test the scheme at 12 NHS sites next year, and install it nationally from October 2004.
Secretary of State for Health Alan Milburn said the scheme was "a fair deal for NHS staff and a good deal for Britain's NHS".
"In essence it is about paying more to get more, so that staff who take on new responsibilities get extra rewards," he added.
Dan Hodges of the GMB union said the deal could mean an end to the perennial battles over low pay in the NHS.
The Agenda for Change proposals
- A minimum NHS wage of £10,100 a year
- The starting salary for newly-qualified nurses rises to £17,000
- Nurses, therapists and healthcare assistants trained to take on new roles, freeing doctors' time for direct patient care
- Clearer rewards for working unsocial hours, making services more widely available to patients in the evenings and at weekends
- Local employers will be able to pay more in high-cost areas
- Progression up the pay scale based on knowledge and skil