Pay-rise blow for nurses

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Nurses should receive no national across-the-board pay rise next year, the Government is to tell their pay-review body shortly. Instead, it says, nurses' pay should be determined purely locally by NHS Trusts, writes Nicholas Timmins.

Stephen Dorrell, Secretary of State for Health, said the Government, in its evidence to the review body, would be seeking "maximum discretion for meaningful local negotiations" over nurses' pay. The move came under heavy fire last night from Unison and the Royal College of Nursing. Bob Abberley, Unison's head of health, said that "the Government does not learn by experience".

Last year the review body recommended a 2-per-cent national award, to be topped up locally. But to date only 26 out of 530 NHS trusts have reached a settlement on a pay award due from last April and some 200 NHS employers have yet even to make an offer.

The system, Mr Abberley said, was "a shambles". Ballots for industrial action were starting to be held and "we are going to have at the back of this year what we tried to avoid last year - some industrial action".

Even some NHS employers are describing local pay as "a fiasco". Anne Galbraith, vice-chair of the NHS Trust Federation, told Mr Dorrell at its annual conference in Birmingham that "never has so much energy been expended to sort out so little money".

Most offers that have been made involved only an additional 0.75 per cent, according to trust-federation figures.

The Royal College of Nursing declared that "local pay has failed to deliver and not just for nurses."

Six months into the financial year, fewer than one in 10 trusts had settled.

Mr Abberley said that local pay had produced "the worst of all possible worlds - demoralised, furious or mutinous staff, highly charged relations between purchasers and providers and a government sitting back and washing its hands of the problem".