NHS 5% pay offer could end bitter dispute in England

  • By Nick Triggle
  • Health correspondent

A 5% pay rise from April has been offered to NHS staff in England, including nurses and paramedics.

In addition, staff have been offered a one-time payment of at least £1,655 to top up the past year’s salary.

Unions are recommending members back out of the deal after nearly two weeks of talks with ministers, raising hopes the bitter row is coming to an end.

The offer covers all NHS staff, except doctors, who have a different contract.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said it was a “fair pay rise” that would also protect the government’s commitment to halving inflation.

“I greatly admire the incredible work of NHS staff. I look forward to continuing our work together to make the NHS a better place to work.”

He said there had been movement on both sides and praised the unions’ “constructive engagement”.

“Too bad it took so long”

Fourteen unions were represented at the talks covering nurses, ambulance staff, physios, midwives and support staff, including cleaners and porters.

The big three – the Royal College of Nursing, Unison and the GMB – have all said they support the deal.

Unite said he couldn’t recommend it to members, but would put it to a vote.

Sara Gorton, Unison Health Manager, said: “It’s a shame it’s taken so long to get here.

“Healthcare workers had to take several days off and thousands more had to threaten to join them to bring their unions into the room and to get proper talks underway.”

She said if her members accepted the deal it would mean a “significant” increase in wages.

RCN General Secretary Pat Cullen added: “Members have made the most difficult decision to strike and I believe they were justified today.”

It comes after a winter of industrial action which saw nurses, ambulance staff and physios go on strike.

The unions suspended all action after the two sides agreed to start talks last month.

‘Sigh of relief’

NHS staff saw a pay rise of 4.75% on average in 2022-23 – the lowest paid getting the biggest increases – but unions had demanded rises above inflation – which, at a given time, would have amounted to an increase of more than 14%.

The one-time payment to top up this salary bonus starts at £1,655 for the lowest paid staff, such as cleaners and porters, and rises to just over £2,400 for the most senior frontline roles, such as nurse consultants. For staff in managerial positions such as directors of nursing and chief financial officers, the one-off payment is £3,789.

An offer of 3.5% from April for the 2023-24 financial year was originally suggested by the government, but in talks ministers agreed to raise this rate to 5%. The less well paid will have more.

Matthew Taylor, of the NHS Confederation, which represents managers, said health officials “will breathe a sigh of relief”. “We are now awaiting the decision of the union members.”

He also urged the British Medical Association to start talks – the young doctors took part in a three-day strike this week in their fight for a 35% pay rise.

They say this is necessary to compensate for below-inflation wage increases over the past 15 years.

The ministers offered talks to the BMA on the same basis as they had with the other unions, but the BMA said no.

They said the salary demands of doctors in training were unaffordable.

The strike has also been called off in Wales and Scotland by most unions while new offers are considered. The GMB in Scotland has announced that it will accept the Scottish offer worth 14% over two years.

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