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Ministers want to halt NHS pay rise
The Department of Health has said it wants to call a halt to NHS pay rises, prompting anger from unions.
Instead of using funding set aside by the Government for a 1% pay rise for staff, the department is proposing it is spent on the modernisation of pay structures.
In its submission to the NHS pay review body, the Department of Health said the NHS is facing the biggest financial challenge in its history.
It said: "Despite real terms growth in its budget in successive years, it needs to continue to secure improved value from the taxpayers' investment, if it is to meet the growing pressures it faces in the years to come both from an ageing and growing population and the need to improve the quality of care provided.
"The Francis report on the very poor care provided at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust has brought the quality challenges into full relief. Pay restraint has been, and will continue to be, a key part of delivering this."
The DoH said the NHS has a "stark choice", adding that issuing the pay rises could have an impact on safe staffing levels.
The department said the dilemma is "either pay staff more, accepting that this may do little to improve the quality of care for patients and is likely to restrict the number of staff employers can afford to employ, or, to reform contracts to enable employers to use their pay bill, as part of their overall employment offer, to maintain safe staffing levels, with stronger links to performance, quality and productivity".
It claimed the 1% pay rise was not affordable alongside the current NHS system which sees incremental salary rises linked to length of service and performance.
The department said that staff morale remains high, referring to a recent survey, and concluded: "The Government's view, therefore, remains that basic pay increases should only be implemented if there is strong evidence that recruitment, retention, morale or motivation issues require this."
The head of health at the union Unite, Rachel Maskell, told the Guardian: "Jeremy Hunt is responsible for either undermining the Treasury position or trying to act in an even more draconian way than the Treasury with regards to staff who work across the NHS.
"He blames the staff on a regular basis; now he wants to further cut their terms and conditions."
Mark Porter, chairman of the BMA Council, told the newspaper: "Doctors fully recognise the economic constraints the NHS is facing, but for the Government to imply that unless NHS staff endure what is effectively another year of pay cuts they will put patient safety at risk is insulting at best, given doctors are working harder than ever before and have borne the brunt of the Government's efficiency drive."
A Department of Health spokeswoman said no decisions had been made, but stressed that the proposals would "help protect jobs and improve care".
She said: " Many NHS staff have continued to receive pay rises of up to 6% and we want to keep working with the trade unions and employers on affordable pay.
"The measures we are proposing will help increase quality for patients and help us realise our vision of an affordable seven-day service."
Phil Gray, chief executive of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, said: "This is a very disappointing move that shows contempt for the principle of working together in partnership to produce a fair deal for NHS staff.
"Those hard-working and dedicated professionals have suffered a real-terms pay cut of up to 12% in recent years and only stood to gain 1% from April.
"The Government should step back from this ill-judged position and allow next year's pay rise to go ahead."