Some thoughts on NHS pay

These times of austerity have been austere indeed for people working in the NHS, unlike members of parliament who awarded themselves a 10 % pay increase NHS pay has been frozen for the past three years, this means that since 2010 pay has actually fallen by 10% once you take inflation into account. The NHS administrators wanted to continue the pay freeze but they have been overruled by the government. The government felt on the one hand it couldn’t afford to give staff a pay rise, while on the other realising it couldn’t afford not to.

So this year there has been a pay rise of a sort but it is only 1% and it is a ‘pay uplift’ rather than a pay rise. What’s the difference you ask? Well a pay uplift is not consolidated so at the end of twelve months the pay goes back to what it was before the pay uplift (conveniently just after the next election).

All NHS staff will get at least a 1% pay uplift. Just over half the staff receive incremental pay rises each year – determined by their length of service and performance. For those who are still receiving increments because they are not yet at the top of their pay band there will be no pay uplift at all they will only get their incremental increase, those whose incremental increase is less than 1% will have their pay rise made up to 1%.

The government has been quick to portray incremental pay increases as being ‘automatic pay increases’. They also point out that people in the private sector do not get ‘automatic pay increases’.

This is a deliberate and cynical misrepresentation of the facts.

Let me explain.

For any job there is a ‘going rate’ for that job, a rate one could reasonably expect to receive if one were employed doing that job.

Arrangements in the private sector vary a great deal but generally you could expect to be employed on that going rate at the start of your employment.

For NHS employees there is also a going rate for the job but an NHS employee does not get put onto that rate at the start of their employment, instead they would be employed on a much lower rate and then get annual increments determined by their performance each year until they reach the top of their pay band (which is the going rate for the job), at that point they receive no more increments. Incremental pay is meant to reward the growing competence and skills that come with experience.

This was originally done save money on the pay budget but now it has become convenient to the government to portray it as being ‘automatic pay rises’. This government is showing complete contempt for NHS staff.

The ‘pay uplift’ trick will be applied in 2015-16, when the ‘pay uplift’ will also be 1%. But these two 1% uplifts will not add up to 2% because when the 2014-15 uplift runs out our pay goes back to the level it was before, the new uplift just maintains it at this meagre level for another year.

The pay deal which has been imposed will cost the NHS over £1bn each year.

The bean counters in the NHS are warning that we can’t afford this. To help cope with rising demands, the NHS has been asked to save the equivalent of 4% a year (£4bn to £5bn in cash terms) and pay accounts for 40% of the overall budget.

This is not the only threat to the NHS, this pernicious conservative government are busy privatising the NHS behind the scenes and they have introduced a new trade agreement with the United States of America which will allow American private healthcare companies to bid for NHS contracts. It also allows American private healthcare companies to sue the NHS for anti-competitive practises (i.e. being subsidised by the government).

This Conservative government might say that the NHS is safe in their hands but their words ring very hollow when one examines the facts.

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