NHS pay – a new deal on the table

05 April 2018

Unite’s head of health Sarah Carpenter welcomes discussion with the government over a new pay framework for NHS staff.

Sarah Carpenter

After years of NHS pay being held back by government under the guise of austerity, health unions decided enough was enough. As reported in Community Practitioner in late 2017, Unite-CPHVA was among 14 unions that put in a pay claim, leading to the government agreeing to talk to us.

Those negotiations have been going on over a number of months, and as a result we have created a framework agreement that we believe will benefit all NHS staff. Those benefits include a three-year pay deal (backdated to April 2018) and changes to the pay structure to make it fairer and better. The deal is also fully funded, so will not put further pressure on the delivery of already hard-pressed NHS services.

This deal has been negotiated for England only, but a key clause in the agreement states that, if endorsed in England, partners in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland can discuss whether – and how – the contents of the agreement are implemented in light of available funding in accordance with the Barnett formula.

The main elements of the framework are listed in the panel, right.


Pay progression and leave

The main change to the system is about how pay progression will work. Most existing staff will have progressed to the top of their pay band by the time the three-year deal ends, but for those who have not, as well as for new starters, incremental progression will look different in the new pay system. Bands will have fewer pay points but staff will stay on the same one for longer. Instead of small annual increments, your increase will be larger, but there will be a longer interval between increments. In addition, all employers will be required to apply a process – linked to appraisals – before your incremental increase is activated.

There has been much speculation about what the deal has to say on annual leave. The reality is that annual leave entitlement will remain the same for all staff, but a national framework will be set up through which individuals can buy and sell their leave.


Have your say

The decision is in the hands of union members: all NHS members in England will get a vote, and those in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will be talking to members separately. The consultation will be taking place during April and May, with the outcome known in early June. So make sure all your colleagues are in the union so that they can take part.

Local meetings are being arranged for union members to find out more, so ask your local rep for details. A pay calculator is also available on the joint NHS union pay website nhspay.org, to work out how much your pay will change over the next three years. 


The main elements

  • A three-year pay deal that gives the vast majority of staff at least a 6.5% pay increase by the end of the deal, with many staff getting considerably more than this.
  • An improvement to starting salaries and the assurance that promotion comes with a meaningful pay rise by removing the current overlaps in the pay bands. 
  • The simplification of all pay bands to enable staff to get to the top – now agreed as the ‘rate for the job’.
  • A real boost for low-paid staff – for the first time in England, the lowest rate of pay will be above the living wage.