NHS staff ‘could be offered pay increase if they accept radical reforms’

Health Secretary Steve Barclay  (PA Wire)
Health Secretary Steve Barclay (PA Wire)

Health Secretary Steve Barclay has hinted that striking NHS staff could be offered a better pay deal if they agree to efficiency savings.

Mr Barclay has suggested a “constructive approach” to pay negotiations with striking health workers and said increases are on the table if the unions will agree to efficiency savings to make higher salaries more “affordable”.

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Barclay said workers could get a significant pay boost from April – if staff will accept radical reforms to improve productivity.

“I remain ready to engage with unions on what the Government can do to support the workforce, and I look forward to talking with the trade unions to see how we make any settlement done through the independent pay body more affordable, where there are productivity and efficiency opportunities,” he said.

Mr Barclay earlier pledged to take further steps to “improve the flow through our hospitals” on Monday, with around 13,000 NHS beds blocked by delays in discharging payments.

The Sunday Times reported that an emergency winter pressure package will include a hospital discharge fund for thousands of NHS patients to be moved to care home beds.

It came after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged  "bold and radical action" as he summoned top figures from the nation’s health and social care services to a Downing Street summit aimed at ending the crisis in the NHS.

He admitted that health workers are facing a "tough time" but insisted there must be an end to "business as usual", with extra funding accompanied by reforms to get record waiting lists down.

Yesterday’s summit was told that poor performance at a minority of hospitals is contributing to delays.

Those attending the NHS Recovery Forum at Number 10 included Chief Medical Officer Sir Chris Whitty and NHS England CEO Amanda Pritchard, alongside hospital bosses from across the country and representatives of local councils providing social care.

Senior doctors have warned the NHS is on a knife-edge, with A&E units struggling to keep up with demand and ambulance services declaring critical incidents.

The Prime Minister has made cutting NHS waiting lists one of his five key pledges to the nation, after they reached 7.2 million.

The Government is providing an additional £14.1billion to the NHS and social care over the next two years but Mr Sunak told health leaders that more money is not enough on its own.

He said: "During the pandemic we had to bring boldness and radicalism to how we did things in order to get through. I think we need that same bold and radical approach now because a business-as-usual mindset won’t fix the challenges we face."

He thanked NHS staff as he talked about "many examples across the country in different bits of the health service where things are going well". But attendees also heard there is "significant variance" in the performance of some NHS trusts, leading to long ambulance delays outside hospitals as paramedics waited to transfer patients.

More than half of ambulance hours lost to delays occur in fewer than 15 per cent of trusts.

In addition, fewer than 15 per cent of trusts account for half of year-long waits for elective and cancer care.