NHS nurses, doctors and other medical staff have been striking over pay and conditions
The UK government has urged the stakeholders of the UK health sector to the way in their opinions about the risks and benefits of a separate pay structure for NHS nurses, moving away from Agenda for Change contracts that are giving them only a five per cent increase in wage in 2023-24. AFP News

UK nurses could get some relief in the current cost-of-living crisis scenario as the UK government is thinking of a separate pay structure for the NHS nursing staff.

Last week, the Department of Health and Social Care called for evidence collation and feedback from major stakeholders in the UK healthcare system in support of a separate pay structure for NHS nurses.

This comes at a time when the NHS just completed 75 years of service in 2023 and doctors and healthcare organisations urged the government to make long-term changes in the policy making to restore the system.

The Sunak government seeks to determine the benefits and risks of a separate pay structure for UK nurses in the NHS through this measure. The UK health sector has been asked to come forward and identify if the new change contracts will create barriers to the career progression of NHS nurses.

The consultation will run for three months or 12 weeks which is enough time for all the stakeholders to share views and suggestions regarding the new separate pay structure for the nursing staff.

People from across the country working in the UK health sector can express their opinions highlighting the benefits and risks of the separate pay structure.

The UK government is trying to address the concerns of the UK nursing staff who are often on strikes demanding better pay, through this measure. Representatives of the NHS nurses have claimed that they face problems in professional development and career progression because of the Agenda for Change contract.

Through this "call for evidence" it will be determined whether the Agenda for Change contract adversely affects UK nurses, midwives, paramedics and other non-medical workers in the NHS.

At present, over one million NHS workers are covered through the Agenda for Change contract including the nursing staff and it is allegedly creating specific barriers to the career progression of UK nurses to explore new opportunities. This could be evidence that the present arrangement isn't working and a separate pay structure for the nursing staff is needed, said the UK government.

The Agenda for Change contracts are a measure to enhance pay equity in the NHS through a structured pay band system. So far the 2023-24 Agenda for Change contracts have a designated five per cent increase in the wages of NHS workers including nurses. It will have a 7.83 per cent wage increase for Band 1 or bottom of Band 2 NHS workers.

This increase in pay in the Agenda for Change contracts ensures that certain NHS pay bands receive a real living wage and not less than that.

Will the separate pay structure for NHS nurses help the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan?

Speaking about the consultation on a separate pay structure for NHS nurses, UK Health Minister Andrew Stephenson said: "We hugely value the work of nurses, who play a vital role in the NHS. We have listened to union concerns and are launching this call for evidence to explore the risks and benefits of a separate pay structure for nurses."

"I want stakeholders to share their expertise and help us collate feedback from across the healthcare sector, ultimately helping to make the NHS a better place to work," the health minister added.

Stephenson assured that the UK government will consider views and suggestions put forward by stakeholders from the UK health industry and "any changes will be carefully considered".

"The government will publish a response in due course," he added.

Earlier in May 2023, the Sunak government agreed on a deal for the Agenda for Change workforce with the NHS Staff Council which formulated the five percent increase in wages along with two one-off payments worth over £2,000 on average for full-time nurses. The government also announced a series of non-pay measures for the NHS workers at that time.

The UK government is trying to strengthen the NHS workforce by adding more nurses to the system through this measure. Data published in November last year showed 51,245 nurses were added in September 2023 compared to September 2019 which has increased the number of NHS nurses from from over 300,000 in 2019 to over 352,000 in 2023.

Furthermore, the new separate pay structure idea is building on the £2.4 billion worth NHS Long Term Workforce Plan of adding 50,000 nurses six months early.

The plan also included adding 24,000 nurse and midwife training centres a year by 2031 for training and retaining nurses. This aims to add over 5,000 mental health and learning disability nurses.