Inflation is set to increase during 2017
The award, announced by the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) on 28 March, means a pay cut in real terms for millions of NHS staff – amid sharply rising living costs. It follows the cuts of more than £4 billion from NHS staff salaries from 2010 to 2016 that resulted from the government’s pay restraint policy.
CSP assistant director Peter Finch said: ‘That this decision was predictable makes it no less disappointing, especially with inflation on the rise for the first time in several years.
‘NHS staff have kept the lights on during the toughest of times, working under enormous pressure and at no small cost to their own health.’
A one per cent pay rise was announced for NHS staff in Scotland last week
Overstretched and undervalued
An NHS staff survey in England, published earlier this month, showed more than a quarter of staff have suffered a work-related musculoskeletal condition. Those who reported feeling unwell due to stress at work stood at 37 per cent.
‘These stark results show the lengths NHS workers are going to in order to keep delivering quality services for their patients against a backdrop of cuts and reorganisation,’ said Mr Finch.
He added that NHS staff were ‘overstretched and undervalued’ and that the one per cent pay award would worsen recruitment and retention problems.
An unsustainable pay policy
Inflation has been rising since the second half of 2015 and hit 2.3 per cent in February, as measured by the Consumer Price Index. The figure was 3.2 per cent in the Retail Price Index, which includes housing costs.
As a result, the CSP and other unions had called for a rise of 1.9 per cent in evidence to the PRB.
The PRB, which since 2010 has been forced to work within the government’s policy of pay restraint, said in its 2017 report that the current public sector pay policy was ‘under stress’ and that there were
- significant supply shortages in a number of staff groups and geographical areas
- widespread concerns by employers and staff about recruitment, retention and motivation
The PRB pointed out that inflation is set to increase further in the coming months, by more than forecasts had predicted. This, it said, would lead to bigger cuts in real pay for staff than were anticipated in 2015, when the current public sector pay policy was established.
The report added: ‘The evidence we have received gives us cause for concern about the sustainability of public sector pay policy over the next few years.
‘We are concerned that, in too many places, the default strategy to deal with significant increases in patient demand within a slowly increasing budget is by expecting NHS staff to work more intensively, in more stressful working environments, for pay that continues to decrease in real terms. We do not consider this a sustainable position.’
Wales and Northern Ireland
There has been no announcement on pay yet in Northern Ireland, where power-sharing talks continue.
Meanwhile, in a move backed by the CSP, staff in Wales will receive the pay levels set by the Living Wage Foundation as a minimum. Mr Finch said: 'We support the aspiration of the Welsh Government to lift the earnings of the lowest paid healthcare staff.’
The CSP and other health unions are stepping up their campaigning and lobbying on pay issues. Case studies relating to physiotherapy are available in the TUC publication ‘Lift the Cap’.