Unions have reacted angrily to the prospect that the government could seek to impose another below-inflation pay rise on NHS workers next year.
The Guardian has reported that trade unions and the NHS Confederation are concerned that health secretary Steve Barclay will seek to limit next year’s increase for staff other than doctors and dentists to just 2%.
Although Mr Barclay did not provide a number when he wrote to the pay review body last month, they believe that as the 2023-24 NHS budget has been set, that is the amount he wants.
The paper said that with a potential further 1% contingency, this could bring the total to 3% – although it would still likely cause further unrest within the service.
Unions are already embroiled in a bitter dispute over this year’s award, with nurses and ambulance staff on strike, with more falling this month.
Pat Cullen, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), warned of another real cut, saying ministers should focus on resolving this year’s claim.
“Our dispute is over NHS pay for 2022-23 and we are deciding how to engage in discussions about the 2023-24 reward,” she told the Guardian.
“Ministers must resolve our dispute with them over this year’s award before moving on to next year’s.
“To task nursing with a decade of actual wage cuts should be more than enough without considering going that route again next year.”
A GMB union official told the newspaper: “The Department (Health and Social Services) has already sent its assignments to the Pay Review Authority for next year and has planned a 2.1% pay increase.
“That’s about a third of projected inflation in 2023. The core issue in the dispute is that NHS payroll is consistently too low.”
In response, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “The government greatly values and appreciates NHS staff and we have committed to providing NHS staff with pay increases by asking independent pay review bodies for staff pay recommendations in the field.
“This follows the full acceptance of last year’s recommendation that those on the lowest incomes in the NHS received a 9.3% increase.
“Once we receive them, we will carefully consider the reports from the independent payroll regulators. The government has not yet defined its position on affordability for the 2023/24 season.”