NHS staff in England, including hospital pharmacists, are set to receive a pay increase worth at least £1,400 backdated to 1 April 2022, the government has announced.
In its annual report for the 2022/2023 financial year, published on 19 July 2022, the NHS Pay Review Body recommended the uplift for all Agenda for Change staff to their full-time equivalent salary, which it said would increase the pay bill by an average of 4.8% across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
For those at the top of Agenda for Change pay band 6 and at pay band 7, the pay review body recommended that the uplift “should be enhanced” to equal a 4% increase in pay.
This exceeds the government’s recommendation to the pay review body in February 2022 for a 3% pay rise in 2022/2023, having “assumed a headline pay award of 2% for NHS staff” in its budget, following the government’s spending review in October 2021. However, unions has described the uplift as “a kick in the teeth”.
In the report, the NHS Pay Review Body said that it was “aware that the NHS is operating within a heavily constrained budget envelope”, but added that “it is necessary to increase the investment in staff pay to go some way to reduce the risk that pay is a reason to leave NHS service; to protect the service from additional temporary workforce costs; and to protect risks to patient care from the impact of increased vacancies and an overstretched workforce”.
In response, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said in a statement that the pay review body’s recommendations would be accepted in full for staff in England.
However, the DHSC added that it “is committed to living within its means and delivering value for the taxpayer, and therefore we are reprioritising within existing departmental funding whilst minimising the impact on front line services”.
Steve Barclay, health and social care secretary, said: “This government hugely values and appreciates the dedication and contribution of NHS staff, which is why we will give over 1 million NHS workers a pay rise of £1,400 this year, on top of the 3% they received last year when pay rises were temporarily paused in the wider public sector.”
In response to the pay award, Nathan Burley, president of the Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists (GHP), told The Pharmaceutical Journal: “The announcement made yesterday by the government represents a real-terms pay cut for all NHS staff. With inflation now at 9.4%, and following the recent increases in National Insurance, the cost of living crisis will only deepen as the year goes on.
“At a time when pharmacists and other NHS staff have made so many sacrifices during the pandemic (many ongoing), and after over ten years of low or no significant pay rises, this award is clearly very disappointing,” he said.
“It will leave many of our members and others in the NHS feeling undervalued and angry, and considering what action they should take.”
Following the announcement of a 3% pay award in 2021/2022 in England, the GHP urged hospital pharmacists to consider taking industrial action in response.
Paul Day, director of the Pharmacists’ Defence Association, said that if the uplift is implemented as proposed by the pay review body “this would mean individual pharmacists would be thousands of pounds short each year from maintaining their existing standard of living”.
“The problems with this pay offer do not end there, NHS employers have only been given budgets to cover a 3% increase, so anything above that may need to be resourced through cuts,” he continued.
“Not so long ago, government ministers, including those currently standing to be the next prime minister, posed for photos as they clapped for NHS heroes. They need to fully fund a pay settlement that protects the real terms pay of their employees and safeguards services to patients.”
Sharon Graham, general secretary of Unite, a union of which the GHP is a member, said: “The government promised rewards for the dedication of the public sector workforce during the pandemic. What they have delivered instead, in real terms, is a kick in the teeth. The so-called wage offer amounts to a massive national pay cut. We expected the inevitable betrayal but the scale of it is an affront.”
Box: How has the community pharmacy sector responded to the pay award for NHS staff?
Representatives from the community pharmacy sector have also responded to the uplift, calling for its own pay rise.
Andrew Lane, chair of the National Pharmacy Association, said the uplifts “highlight that there’s an unresolved funding crisis in community pharmacy which needs urgent attention”.
“Our sector can’t help but feel utterly neglected after seven years of crushing real terms cuts to pharmacy funding, amounting to half a billion pounds, and no hint of any relief to come,” he said, adding that “the sector deserves better than to be neglected in this way”.
Janet Morrison, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), said: “The government’s agreement to award public sector workers a pay rise this year will feel like yet another slap in the face for community pharmacy teams.
“While we recognise that many of our NHS colleagues will desperately need an uplift in the face of uncontrolled inflationary rises, we are clear that contractors and their teams need and deserve the same help.”
The PSNC is currently in negotiations with the government to finalise funding arrangements for year four of the five-year community pharmacy contractual framework.