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The government has no plans to push forward pay negotiations for nurses on the Agenda for Change (AfC) pay contract, despite campaigning from frontline workers and unions, a minister has insisted.
Care minister Helen Whatley told BBC Breakfast that the next announcements on nurse pay would be made next year as planned, when the current AfC deal comes to an end.
“We are making sure nurses are getting the pay that they deserve”
Her appearance on the programme yesterday morning came after thousands of NHS workers in more than 30 different locations across the UK took to the streets on Saturday to demand a pay rise this year.
The main unions representing nurses are also separately lobbying for an early wage increase for their members.
The announcement last month of a new pay deal for other public sector professions, including doctors and teachers, added further momentum to the campaign.
However, on Monday Ms Whatley indicated that the government was not willing to stray from its current timetable for the next AfC pay review.
She said: “Coming to the question of pay, a couple of weeks ago we had the announcement on doctors’ pay – which was part of a regular rhythm of pay reviews for that part of the workforce.
“Nurses are on something called Agenda for Change, that is a three-year pay deal, that’s up for review next year. So, that’s when we will see announcements on pay for nurses.”
Pushed further on the matter, Ms Whatley added: “That is the pay schedule that nurses and many other members of the healthcare sector are on.”
She said that, under the current three-year AfC deal, which was agreed in 2018, nurses had received a pay rise of at least 6.5% and their starting salary had increased by 12.5% to nearly £25,000.
“So we are making sure nurses are getting the pay that they deserve but also I should say it’s not just about pay – last week we announced our people plan which is a whole set of measures to support healthcare workers in the NHS to make the NHS a much better place to work,” said the minister.
When it was put to her that many nurses were actually worse off financially when inflation was taken into account, Ms Whatley repeated the 6.5% figure and added: “We will be looking at nurses pay again as part of the Agenda for Change cycle and there will be announcements on that next year.”
The protests on Saturday were organised by the grassroots NHS Workers Say No and Nurses United groups, which are calling for a 15% pay increase for AfC staff before the end of 2020.
Campaigners are planning further action on 19 August and 26 August, this time at workplaces.
Meanwhile, a recent member briefing from the Royal College of Nursing confirmed that the college was continuing to fight for a “substantial and early” pay rise for its members.
It said the college had launched talks with its partner unions to build an agreement on “what a fair pay rise would look like”, and hoped to have a case ready by September to put forward to ministers.
The power to decide the timetable for discussions and the size of the pay award laid solely with the UK governments, said the briefing document.
“But the greater the pressure they feel from you as members, and our supportive public, then the better chance we have of a significant and early pay award,” it added.
The RCN was, therefore, preparing to launch a public and member-facing campaign in the autumn.
“This campaign will seek to build public pressure on the government to show support for our call for an early and significant pay rise,” noted the briefing.