In perspective - An antiquated pay system?

CSP assistant director Peter Finch warns that attempts to tamper with NHS pay systems will backfire.

Recent media reports have raised concerns about attempts by the government in England to interfere further with the independence of the Pay Review Body (PRB) process.

The reports have suggested that any pay award in the NHS in 2014 must be linked to further ‘modernisation’ of the pay system.

Pejorative terms such as ‘antiquated’ and ‘time served’ have been used in references to the incremental progression system.

The pay system is not yet 10 years old and the CSP and other unions accept that Agenda for Change (AfC) is not set in tablets of stone.

After all, there have already been changes to the system and discussions with the PRB over the ‘structure’ of the pay system continue.

AfC, of course, replaced an inflexible and antiquated pay system (Whitley).

It was designed to deliver a pay system that provided equal pay for work of equal value and paid people for what they did, rather than their job title.

A report published earlier this year by the Work Foundation stated that ‘any concerted effort to dismantle AfC as a national framework would be seriously misplaced’.

One of AfC’s key strengths was that it was a ‘flexible adaptive system, capable of evolving and adapting to the changing environment’.

CSP members working in the NHS in England will be fully aware that increments are no longer automatic.

Indeed, the new arrangements make it clear that progression is conditional on people demonstrating that they have the skills and knowledge the job requires and can demonstrate the right level of performance.

The PRB has always accepted our argument that incremental pay progression is a reward for the additional skills and experience you bring to a job and should be a separate issue from basic pay.

The CSP is scheduled to meet PRB members next month, where no doubt these issues will be raised.

While the government in England is arguing there should be no pay increase without strings attached, what of the devolved administrations?

NHS pay has been a devolved matter for more than 10 years.

In 2007 the Department of Health issued the pay award in stages while CSP members in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland received the full award in April. In theory, all four countries could implement different arrangements in 2014.

These further attempts by the government in England to cut the pay of NHS staff are bad news for CSP members. But they also represent bad news for NHS patients.

No research study has ever suggested that patient care improves when delivered by demoralised and demotivated staff.

Peter Finch is CSP assistant director, employment relations and union services.

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