The government has confirmed that it has made a new pay offer for 2022-23 and 2023-24 to NHS staff in England, and most unions representing health workers are suspending strike action and will recommend their members accept the offer.
The offer covers ambulance workers, nurses, midwives and physiotherapists, but not junior doctors. Under the deal, staff will receive a non-consolidated award of 2% of an individual’s salary for 2022/23, on top of the pay increase of at least 4% they received for 2022-23 last year, as recommended by the pay review body.
Members took the hardest of decisions to go on strike and I believe they have been vindicated today” – Pat Cullen, RCN
In addition, they will receive a one-off NHS backlog bonus in recognition of the sustained pressure facing the NHS following the pandemic and the effort staff have been making to reduce backlogs.
The backlog bonus will be worth at least £1,250 per person but will be determined based on how much experience staff have and based on an individual’s pay band. The average nurse in pay band 5, for example, will receive £1,350.
NHS pay and conditions
NHS staff survey: One in three often consider leaving
For 2023-24, the government is offering staff a 5% consolidated increase in pay, worth at least £1,065.
The Royal College of Nursing’s general secretary and chief executive, Pat Cullen, said: “The government was forced into these negotiations and to reopen the pay award as a result of the historic pressure from nursing staff.
“Members took the hardest of decisions to go on strike and I believe they have been vindicated today.
“After tough negotiations, there are a series of commitments here that our members can see will make a positive impact on the nursing profession, the NHS and the people who rely on it.
“Our members will have their say on it and I respect everybody’s perspective. Each should look closely at what it means for them.
Safe staffing measures
“As well as the additional money now, we have made real progress with the government on safe staffing measures, a new pay structure for nursing, support for newly qualified staff and pensions too. It is not a panacea, but it is real tangible progress and the RCN’s member leaders are asking fellow nursing staff to support what our negotiations have secured.”
Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay said: “I hugely admire the incredible work of NHS staff, including during the pandemic and the progress they have made to tackle the resulting backlog.
It’s a shame it took so long to get here. Health workers had to take many days of strike action to get proper talks underway” – Sara Gorton, Unison
“This offer will give nurses, paramedics, physiotherapists and other non-medical staff a fair pay rise while protecting our commitment to halve inflation.
“We have engaged in constructive and meaningful discussions with unions and NHS Employers and I look forward to continuing our work together to make the NHS a better place to work.”
Prime minister Rishi Sunak said: “We have taken a reasonable approach throughout and this offer is good for NHS staff, it’s good for the taxpayer and most importantly it is good news for patients whose care will no longer be disrupted by strike action.”
Significant pay boost
Unison head of health Sara Gorton said: “It’s a shame it took so long to get here. Health workers had to take many days of strike action, and thousands more had to threaten to join them, to get their unions into the room and proper talks under way.
“But following days of intensive talks between the government, unions and employers, there’s now an offer on the table for NHS staff. If accepted, the offer would boost pay significantly this year and mean a wage increase next year that’s more than the government had budgeted for.
“This is better than having to wait many more months for the NHS pay review body to make its recommendation. Unison will now be putting this offer to the hundreds of thousands of health members in the union in the next few weeks, recommending acceptance.”
She added that in the coming days, health workers will have the chance to look at the full detail and decide whether to end the dispute. “While that process takes place any planned industrial action will be paused,” said Gorton.
The courage and determination shown by staff in taking strike action is what brought the government to the negotiating table, albeit belatedly” – Elaine Sparkes, Chartered Society of Physiotherapists
In addition, Barclay has written to the RCN to outline that in undertaking work to address the specific challenges faced by nursing staff – in terms of recruitment, retention and professional development – this will involve how to take account of the changing responsibilities of nursing staff, and the design and implementation issues, including scope and legal aspects, of a separate pay spine for nursing staff exclusively.
Unite stood alone among the health unions by not recommending its members to accept the offer. General secretary Sharon Graham said: “The offer from government is not one that Unite can recommend to our members, but ultimately it is important that our members make the final decision. Unite will support members in whichever decision they now make. As Unite members are being consulted, strike action will be paused.”
Courage and determination
Elaine Sparkes, assistant director of employment relations at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists who attended the talks, said: “It is without question the case that the courage and determination shown by CSP members and other NHS staff in taking widespread strike action is what brought the government back to the negotiating table, albeit belatedly. For many months the government refused to discuss any additional pay rise for 2022-23, a position they have now had to reverse.
“We always aim for consolidated pay rises. This new offer equates to a one-off payment of around £2,000 for most NHS staff, in addition to the £1,400 consolidated rise already in place. Although non-consolidated, this would go some way to offsetting what will have been a very difficult winter for many.
“We will continue to fight for the value of NHS pay to be restored to pre-2010 levels over the coming years. Latest forecasts indicate that the 5 per cent offer for 2023-24 will represent an above-inflation deal and it represents an increase of 1.5 percentage points from what the government asked the pay review body to award.”
The past three months have seen several days of strike action by NHS workers who are campaigning for better pay and working conditions.
The NHS Staff Survey, published earlier this month, found that one in three employees in NHS Trusts in England often think about leaving their job. Only a quarter were satisfied with their level of pay.
Unions representing workers in NHS Trusts, including the Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Midwives and Unison, which represents a range of health workers including ambulance staff, agreed to put industrial action on hold after the government agreed to enter negotiations.
The RCN was initially invited for talks with the DHSC three weeks ago, with other unions invited to the negotiating table at a later date.
Unions across the public sector were angered yesterday when the Spring Budget made little or no reference to the concerns behind this year’s wave of industrial action, although an increase in the annual tax-free pension allowance could mean fewer doctors and consultants retire early.
Junior doctors, who are not included in these negotiations, finished three days of strike action today after a meeting with the DHSC made “no meaningful progress”.
HR opportunities in healthcare on Personnel Today
Browse more HR opportunities in healthcare