NHS staff could see pay increase up to 29% in three years, as unions agree pay deal

Half of health service workforce will see rise of between nine and 29 per cent and 100,000 lowest paid workers will see income rise £2,000 to £17,460 next year

Alex Matthews-King
Health Correspondent
Wednesday 21 March 2018 15:26 GMT
Thousands of nurses make London protest against pay cap

Some NHS staff could see their pay increase by almost a third in the next three years after the Government announced a deal with trade unions that marks the end of eight years of pay restraint.

New starters and those moving into new roles in the NHS will see the most significant pay increase under the deal – which affects more than a million nurses, paramedics, porters and other staff.

The maximum increase any role could see would be 29 per cent, meaning a nurse ward manager today, for example, with all the skills to pass each annual pay review could be earning £9,000 by 2021.

The agreement will seek to make savings by making pay increases less automatic, and will also seek to bring sickness absences in line with the wider public sector, the Government said.

Leaked details of the agreement earlier today reported staff would get at least a 6.5 per cent uplift over three years, but this will only apply to staff who have been in their job the longest and have reached the top of the incremental pay increases for that role.

These experienced staff account for 50 per cent of the workforce on an NHS Agenda for Change contract, for which the new deal was agreed between the 14 health unions and the Government today.

Sara Gorton, Unison’s head of health, chaired negotiations for the NHS trade unions and said pay was the root cause of the “staffing crisis of daunting magnitude” facing the NHS.

“Our pay system has sat stuck for the last seven years and the set of proposals today aims to put it back on track over the next three years.

“The NHS is one team, its porters, cleaners, physios, nurses, midwives, ambulance staff, occupational therapists: the people you see, and the people you never see.

“These proposals share the resources available across the whole structure, rather than targeting particular points or job groups.”

A newly qualified nurse or midwife who starts at the bottom of Band Five of the pay scale today would earn £22,128, and with three years experience that could increase to £26,970 if they met all their performance targets – a 22 per cent increase.

The 100,000 lowest paid NHS staff, including healthcare assistants, drivers and nursery assistants, will see their pay increase immediately in 2018-19 – from £15,404 to £17,460 – with the lowest salary in the NHS by 2021 to be £18,005.

'If you were self employed you wouldn't open your tool box for £12.50 an hour'


Paddy Bond, who works in facilities management in the NHS in Northern Ireland and heads Unite’s health industrial sector committee, told The Independent the deal was "a platform we can build on".

"Basic wage will go up 6.5 per cent, that’s about £24,000 after three years. It’s not enough for us to attract people in, if you were self-employed you wouldn’t open your tool box".

Facilities management staff work everywhere from reception to intensive care. "We’re the first call of emergency," Mr Bond told The Independent, who has had 2AM call outs for dialysis machines with blocked filters.

"My brother’s a consultant brain surgeon, but he says if you don’t have heat, you don’t have electric, you don’t operate. We all do our bits."

While he said it was positive that new entrants will hit the top of the pay band in three years, instead of eight, experienced staff will earn just £12.50 an hour. 

"Private contractors, they’ll be on about £21 quid and hour," he added.

Announcing the deal in the Commons today, Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “Today’s agreement on a new pay deal reflects public appreciation for just how much staff have done and continue to do.

“We know that NHS sickness rates are around a third higher than the public sector average, and reducing sickness absence by just 1 per cent will save around £280m.”

It will replace “often automatic” pay progression with “larger less frequent pay rises based on the achievement of agreed professional milestones”, he added

The changes will also reduce the number of incremental pay increases between the highest and lowest paid staff in the same role.

The Treasury has made £4.2bn of additional funding available to fund the rise and had said pay uplift would be contingent on “productivity increases”.

'There are issues over and above the pay deal'

Debbie Wilkinson, a paramedic in Yorkshire and chair of Unite's Ambulance Staff committee said that in the last five to six years the job have left her struggling.

"I was able to pay my bills and have a bit left at the end of the month. Now it’s literally hand to mouth, I can’t manage now unless I do some level of overtime above my contractual hours".

Paramedics were leaving for jobs with better hours and working conditions, such as in minor injury units or working for police forces.

"The pay rise partly addresses the pay issues of the last few years, but there are issues for ambulance staff over and above the pay deal.

Our unsocial hours scheme is a big one, but we have a commitment to look at that".

However, a leaked report earlier this month, suggesting that staff would be asked to forfeit a day of annual leave for the rise, is not included.

The next step is for the unions to put it to their members to vote, expected in June, with backdated pay theoretically reaching staff by July.

However, one union, GMB, is already urging its staff to reject the “jam tomorrow” offer, which it says amounts to a real-terms pay cut for staff who have been in their roles the longest.

The Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts that inflation is set to hit 9.6 per cent in the three-year period of the deal and pay has not kept up with inflation for eight years.

Kevin Brandstatter, GMB national officer, said: “After all that suffering, is a below inflation pay rise the best they can offer?

“If it is, GMB will have to recommend that our members in NHS and Ambulance Trusts reject it.”

How nurse pay will change

Basic starting pay and annual performance-linked increases go up for more than one million staff on NHS Agenda for Change contracts under the three year deal

How will pay change for a newly qualified nurse pay change?

A nurse just after qualification who started in pay Band Five in April 2017 started on £22,128 and in the next three years could reach £26,970 – a 29 per cent rise.

A nurse who starts the same position in April 2018 starts on £23,023 and within three years could reach £26,970 – a 17.1 per cent rise.

The starting nurse salary in three years’ time will be £24,907.

For more experienced nurses?

A Band Five nurse with four years’ experience in April 2017 would be on £24,547 and within three years this could reach £30,615 – a 24.7 per cent rise.

A nurse at the top of Band Five in April 2017 would be on £28,746 and within three years could be on £30,615 – a 6.5 per cent pay rise.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in