Vaughan Gething, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services
I am responding today to the 31st Report of the NHS Pay Review Body (NHSPRB) which was laid before Parliament on Wednesday 27 June. I am grateful to the Chair and members of the NHSPRB for their report and I welcome their endorsement of the Agenda for Change multi-year pay and contract reform deal (2018/2019 to 2020/2021) which has already been accepted by trade unions in England.
I value the dedication of the NHS Wales workforce and have put considerable pressure on the UK government to lift the public sector pay cap to ensure that NHS staff can be properly rewarded for the work they do. I am pleased to announce today that I have been able to endorse proposals negotiated in partnership between employers and health trade unions for a 3 pay agreement for NHS staff in Wales employed under the Agenda for Change terms and conditions. The negotiated agreement means that for the 3 year pay agreement NHS staff in Wales will get the same rate of pay as their colleagues in England. This draft agreement does not cover employed doctors and dentists who are subject to a separate independent pay review process nor those in executive and senior posts.
The draft agreement targets recruitment, retention and ensures the NHS can continue to recruit the skilled compassionate workforce it needs by:
- Offering NHS staff in Wales the same enhanced rates of pay as those in the NHS in England.
- Going beyond our commitment to the Living Wage Foundation recommendations with a new rate of £17,460 introduced from 1 April 2018 as the minimum basic pay rate in the NHS and the lowest starting NHS salary increases to £18,005 in 20/21.
- Investing in higher starting salaries for staff in every pay band by reforming the pay system to remove overlapping pay points.
- Guaranteeing fair basic pay awards for the next 3 years to the staff who are at the top of pay bands,
- Faster progression pay for the next 3 years to those staff who are not yet on the top of their pay band.
- Alongside these improvements, in Wales, I will continue to consider the annual recommendations of the Living Wage Foundation to ensure that the pay offer to NHS Wales staff remains fair in future years.
Trade unions and employers have agreed reforms to pay progression to support all staff to demonstrate the knowledge and skills to make the greatest possible contribution to patient care.
- Appraisal and personal development will be at the heart of pay progression with a new ‘made in Wales’ pay progression policy to support staff and managers through the process.
- Staff will be supported to develop their skills and competencies as they progress through the pay scales.
- The system will be underpinned by a commitment from employers to fully utilise an effective appraisal process.
The draft agreement also reinforces our commitment across the NHS in Wales to the health and wellbeing of the whole workforce. It commits the members of the Wales Partnership Forum to joint practical action at national and local level to support individuals to remain well, to act proactively to avoid absence and enable those who are absent to return to work as quickly as possible. We recognise this is best for individual members of the workforce and for the services they deliver for the people of Wales.
For Wales, the WPF have agreed that practical joint action on health and wellbeing will include:
- A new Attendance Management Policy and associated procedures and training packages
- Consideration of Rapid Access and early referral for treatment for staff
- A renewed emphasis on wellbeing in the workplace building on the existing NHS Wales Health and Wellbeing toolkits
- Aligning approaches to flexible working, re-deployment and other workplace policies to ensure that they support the aims of supporting staff in work.
- The development of a NHS Wales Menopause Policy
- A commitment from all partners to prioritise active attendance management at local level and to remove any barriers to the process through partnership working at local and national level as required.
In Wales, the WPF specific commitments to improve the health and wellbeing of NHS staff so as to improve levels of attendance and a preventative approach to sickness absence has enabled NHS staff in Wales to continue to benefit from unsocial hours payments during sickness absence. Additionally, trade unions and employers will also work together to support individuals in our workforce if they face a diagnosis of a terminal illness, and will adopt the TUC “Dying to Work” campaign.
I have been clear that UK Treasury funding must flow to Wales to ensure that pay awards can be afforded without undermining services to patients. The Barnett share alone, however, does not cover the full cost of this agreement. I have decided to invest additional funding to enable this deal to be implemented, in recognition both of the different workforce profile in Wales and the willingness of both unions and employers to work in partnership to deliver practical change to support the health and wellbeing of the workforce.
Overall, this pay deal is fair to staff and taxpayers. It will help to improve productivity through stronger evidence based appraisal systems and through that, better staff engagement which we know can help improve outcomes for patients. If the offer is agreed, work will continue at pace to ensure staff see the benefits in their pay packets before Christmas.
The relevant trades unions will now start the process of consulting their members about the proposed agreement. I will provide a further update once this process is complete.