Sir: I must take issue with Eric Caines' article on NHS pay ("Rubbing salt in nurses' wounds", 22 February). He starts from a position that it would have been better for ministers to have imposed local pay on the NHS. This would not have been the right way to proceed and we have chosen instead to make progress through negotiation and persuasion.
Last year, an enabling provision on local pay was negotiated for 40 per cent of NHS staff. The independent Nurses Pay Review Body has this year chosen to make a recommendation whose total effect, following local negotiations, is expected to result in pay increases of between 1.5 per cent and 3 per cent.
It is important to recognise that the Government has accepted in full the recommendations of the independent Pay Review body, as it has done ever since it set up the Review Body in 1983. This is not a pay formula that we have conjured from thin air. It has been recommended by an independent body to which the professions attach great importance and for which we see a continuing role. We believe that, properly handled, the introduction of local pay will foster and enhance good clinical practice and help bring benefits to patients through improved services. Staff have nothing to fear from it.
Mr Caines has misunderstood the Government's position. We are indeed seeking local pay, not performance-related pay. Mr Caines takes exception to the view that in the early years, trusts may want to give an across- the-board local pay deal, but it is unclear why he is unhappy. My view is clear. I want to see fair, affordable and simple local pay deals; not complex, unintelligible ones.
Our policy is to move carefully to local pay in a way which is consistent with continued service improvements. The money is in the system this year to allow reasonable pay increases for nursing staff.
Minister for Health
Department of Health