The Scottish government has offered NHS staff an average pay uplift of 7.5% for 2022/2023, in what it described as its “best and final offer”.
This is the third pay offer from the government since June 2022, when it first offered a 5% pay rise to all staff under NHS Agenda for Change pay bands. However, this was rejected by 89% of NHS Scotland staff in August 2022, including hospital pharmacists, in a ‘consultative ballot’ by the union Unite.
A subsequent offer was made in October 2022 to provide NHS staff with an average 7% uplift, but was described as “insulting and divisive” by the Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists (GHP), the trade union that represents hospital pharmacists.
The new offer, published in a government statement on 24 November 2022, represents an uplift of 11.32% for the lowest paid NHS staff and an uplift of at least 6.26% for band 6 staff — the starting Agenda for Change band for newly qualified pharmacists.
For Band 8 pharmacists, which includes senior roles such as advanced and consultant pharmacists, the offer represents a smaller rise of between 2.39% and 5.00%.
In a statement published on 24 November 2022, Unite — of which the GHP is a member — said the offer would “be put to members in a consultative ballot”, which it aims to complete by 12 December 2022.
The statement noted that the new offer “also includes a commitment to reduce the working week from 37.5 hours to 36 hours with no loss of pay”.
“Unite believes that the improved offer deserves to be considered by our members across the NHS. We will be balloting members on this offer and it is for them to decide if the offer meets their expectations,” said James O’Connell, Unite lead negotiator for NHS Scotland.
“We appreciate the work, on all sides, that has gone into achieving this new offer and recognise the direct involvement of the First Minister in helping to obtain an increased offer that could be put to our members for consideration.”
Nathan Burley, president of the GHP, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that the union is “taking time to consider this new offer and how it affects our membership”, adding that “any below-inflation offer is disappointing in the face of years of real-terms cuts impacting members”.
“We will therefore be seeking member views to guide the response. We encourage all members to reflect on how this offer may impact them and respond accordingly once communications come out from Unite,” he said.
“We recognise and appreciate Scottish government’s engagement with unions, which unfortunately we cannot say about those in Westminster.”
In England and Wales, Unite has begun balloting NHS staff, including hospital pharmacists, over pay, ahead of potential industrial action in January 2023.
In July 2022, the English and Welsh governments accepted recommendations from the NHS Pay Review Body to give NHS staff on the Agenda for Change scheme a pay award of at least £1,400 backdated to 1 April 2022.
On 25 November 2022, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) announced that its members would strike at employers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland on 15 and 20 December 2022. The RCN said that “the dispute is over pay, but also patient safety”.