I SUPPORT national pay agreements for the NHS.
National pay is part of the glue that holds together our National Health Service together and has a strong record of controlling costs, minimising regional variations and providing fair and reliable pay for staff.
So I remain concerned about the Government’s proposal, which I know has caused anxiety for many people working in the NHS.
I appreciate that all NHS trusts have been put in a difficult position, but I fear that the break-up of national pay structures in the NHS will be bad for the NHS, bad for the economy and bad for society.
I also agree that it would be unacceptable for the Government to pursue a wholesale shift to regional and local pay bargaining in the public sector, including the 1.4 million people who work in the NHS.
National pay and shared working conditions are an important part of the NHS and for many years national pay bodies have shown they are a better way to control costs and reward staff.
Regional pay, however, could reinforce the North-South divide, increase the chance of NHS staff being poached from one area to another and make it harder to bring the best staff to the more deprived parts of the country where the health challenge is often greatest.
I am very concerned, therefore, that 31 NHS Trusts are considering adopting regional pay. This could affect 88,000 NHS staff and set a new pay rate some 15 per cent below the current national level as well as leading to important changes in working terms and conditions.
I know that the Royal College of Nursing and the British Medical Association and trade unions such as UNISON have also expressed concerns about this and a petition calling on the Government to stop these plans has been signed by nearly 25,000 people.
That is why I supported an Opposition Day motion earlier this month in the House of Commons which called on the Government to intervene without delay to protect national pay in the NHS.
Unfortunately the Government voted against this.
But I can assure readers of this column that I will continue to oppose any wholesale shift to regional pay in the NHS and to work with Andy Burnham MP and the shadow health team to press the Government on this important matter.