After months of anticipation, finally the Department of Health revealed the new NHS pay proposal.
I watched on Wednesday as Mr Hunt went on a parade telling everyone how the Conservatives have managed to find that magic tree and some of the NHS staff will get an incredible 29% pay rise!
Sounds good, no? I was quite euphoric for a moment until I decided to look deep into the deal and go behind the big headlines.
The unions also told us that we needed to congratulate them for forcing the government to remove the threat of reducing our holidays. But if someone threatens you with a slap and a punch but later on changes their mind and decided not to slap you but, still wants to punch you, do I need to say thank you? I don’t think so.
Like thousands of NHS workers, I went to the NHS pay website.
I went to the pay calculator and to my surprise, I found out that in next three years I was going to get a whopping 16.5% pay rise. I fell off my chair! I nearly phoned my partner and ask her to book a much needed holiday to the Canary Islands to celebrate.
But before I popped the champagne, I decided to look deeper. Part of my job is to analyse data and look for patterns.
Soon I discovered that if you are already at top of your ‘band’ you would be a big loser. I notice also that there were a big range of results. I felt a bit puzzled after around an hour analysing data, but suddenly the penny finally dropped.
The NHS pay calculator is misleading because it includes the annual pay progression, that is already in place, into the equation. You can find the current pay scale here.
If you take the annual pay progression out the real NHS pay offer is the following:
· 3% in 2018/19
· 1.7% in 2019/20 plus a lump sum worth 1.1% paid in April 2019
· 1.7% in 2020/21 This would amount to a total increase on basic pay of 6.5% over three years plus the extra 1.1% lump sum in year two.
As cost of living is set to rise so make no mistake, this is a real terms pay cut of 9.3% on top of eight years of pay pinching.
Also they assume that everyone will get automatically through their pay progression gates. Pay progression is linked to your annual appraisal and they are conditional upon individuals achieving their objectives set by their manager.
But I found out that things are even worse. In some cases, nurses will only get 3%. Well below the 6.5% that government is saying. That means that for some nurses the pay cap will still be in place.
Here is an example of how the figures are misleading: if you are currently a band six on pay scale point 24 you are currently on £29,626 in three years if you get your annual pay progression, you will be earning £32,731. With the new NHS pay proposal now you will be earning £33,779. A £1,048 increase. That is a 3% pay rise not 14.02%.
The unions are also telling us that low-paid staff will get more. But let’s not forget that in last few years NHS trusts up and down the country have outsourced low-paid staff to private companies. This NHS pay offer will have no effect to them.
This is another smoke screen to divide us.
Also I heard that this pay deal will help with recruitment and retention. Let’s look into it. A newly qualified nurse currently earns an annual salary of £22,128. By 2020 will rise to £24,907. That’s an 11% pay rise but when you take out the predicted inflation and increase of cost of living, it’s hardly a golden hello. I don’t predict a sudden surge of teenagers queueing to be nurses in next few years. The contrary, due the removal of bursaries, I foresee that the number of student nurses will continue to decline.
Regarding retention, this pay deal will do more harm than good. Recent figures shows a mass exodus of long serving nurses who are on the top of their bands. This deal is an attack on the most experienced nurses. These nurses have a priceless value and knowledge. They are the ones who mentor and guide the newly qualified nurses. Their role is vital an as a consequence of these nurses leaving, newly qualified nurses do not feel supported.
The crisis in the NHS is deepening every day. Nurses are leaving in droves and, overall, this deal will do nothing to improve the dire work conditions that nurses are suffering on a daily basis.
Whatever way you spin this, nurses will have suffered a 14% real terms pay cut over several years and a deal that would see us just break even in year one with a real terms pay cut in years two and three is simply not acceptable.
We deserve better.