Those eye-popping 6.5% to 29% NHS pay rises are a lie – and I can prove it

The first rule of navigating the used car lot is that if the deal you’re being offered sounds too good to be true, well – those shiny-looking wheels will be a banger in disguise.

And, just as with used car salesmen, so it is, I’m afraid, with government pay deals.

You could hardly have missed this week’s eye-popping accounts of unprecedented Department of Health largesse towards hardworking NHS staff. Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health, tweeted enthusiastically of a deal, bashed out with no less than 13 trade unions, in which 1.3 million staff would receive a guaranteed pay rise, over the next 3 years, of between 6.5% and 29%:

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The headlines generated by a credulous media must have been a PR man’s dream. Here’s the Metro’s front-page splash, for example:

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But the claimed pay rises are inaccurate. Beneath those used car lot headlines is a sober reality, in which no-one will actually receive a genuine 29% raise and – far worse – thousands of NHS staff will not even receive the promised minimum 6.5% pay increase. At worst, some staff will receive annual rises of barely a whisker more than the current 1% austerity rises imposed annually since 2011.

Sceptical? I was too, initially. After all, how could the mainstream media not have interrogated these figures themselves before obediently reproducing them?

Well, the proof lies in two easily-sourced official documents which, together, reveal how the government has artificially inflated the alleged pay rises by including annual, incremental pay awards that staff would have already received (on their existing payscales) in recognition of skill and experience accrued over time.

These two source documents are:

(1) the new “Framework Agreement for the proposed reform of NHS pay,” helpfully posted in the public domain by Health Service Journal journalist, Shaun Lintern

(2) the current (old) 2017-18 NHS England Agenda for Change payscales 

Pages 11-13 of the Framework Agreement purport to demonstrate, for each level of seniority of NHS staff, their “new” pay rise over 3 years. To expose the statistical sleights of hand deployed, take the example of staff on “point 24” of the payscale, screenshot below:

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The total pay rise for a staff member on this point of the payscale would be, allegedly, 14.02% over 3 years. However, during that same 3 year period, their pay would have risen anyway on the old payscale by 10.48% (from £29,626 to £32,731), as they received their annual incremental pay awards, reaching point “27” on the old payscale. In other words, their actual pay rise on the proposed new pay deal is a mere 3.54%, spread over 3 years.

That’s not even close to the promised minimum pay rise of 6.5%.

It’s barely greater than 1% per annum.

Deploying the same simple arithmetic with the outlandish-sounding upper limit pay rises reveals, again, the dishonesty of the government’s figures. Let’s look at that alleged 29% pay rise. Here are those lucky individuals, on point “26” of the payscale:

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But, once you deduct the increase in salary these staff members would have received anyway on the old payscale (from £31,696 to £35,577 = 12.24%), you find the headline figure of 29% shrinks down to an actual pay rise of 16.8%.

In short, the government – and the 13 unions who have agreed to sign up to these bogus figures, with the notable exception of the GMB – have misled NHS staff into thinking their pay rises over the next 3 years are vastly greater than they actually will be.

Yet again (remember, they have form on this), the government is playing smoke and mirrors with NHS staff, the media and the wider public.

Quite why the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Sky, the Times, the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Mail and the rest of the mainstream media have not interrogated these figures for themselves is a mystery. It depresses me beyond belief that not one of them has bothered to do so.

But the bottom line is this.

Mr Hunt, Mrs May, can you not see that you have in NHS staff a 1.5 million-strong workforce of loyal, idealistic, tireless individuals upon whose goodwill the NHS survives?

I am not willing to stand by and allow the men and women with whom I work – the NHS health care assistants, nurses, paramedics, dieticians, administrators, technicians, lab staff, radiographers, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, midwives, occupational therapists and every other invaluable member of the team – to be tricked and misled by duplicitous statistics.

So please, Prime Minister, Secretary of State, could you not, just once – with NHS morale so low and thus the stakes so high – be honest and straightforward with your statistics?

137 thoughts

  1. Such a con ! My increase in pay will actually be 1.6 % this year followed by 1.4% then 1.7 % total. 4.7 over 3 years . Hmmmmmm need I say more

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  2. Didn’t expect much more really, how are the unions getting away with this. Don’t they have to ballot there members on this agreement, I for one haven’t agreed to this shambles

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  3. The absence of information related to London weighting is worrying. NHS England have refused to reply to requests to clarify the situation. I assume it will disappear in the ‘new, improved’ scales. Leaving those who work in the London area poorer than fellow workers around the country

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    1. The FAQ on nhspay.org answer this. “The current arrangements for calculating HCAS remain unchanged. The minimum and maximum thresholds for each tier of HCAS will be uplifted by the headline top-of-band consolidated awards for each year. That means they will rise by 3% from 1 April 2018, 1.7% from 1 April 2019 and 1.7% from 1 April 2020.”

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  4. With respect, it is possible that the unions, the government and the media are simply reading the tables correctly.

    Increments within grade will still take place (although there will be changes to the number of spine points and the frequency of increments, with the overall time taken to get from bottom to top of grade slightly reduced), so If we take your example of someone currently at spine point 24 on £29,626, in three year’s time they will be earning £37,890. That’s closer to 27% than 3.54%, however you mangle the calculations. If we take someone already at the top of their grade (say at point 29), who wouldn’t get any further increments, their annual earnings will go from £35,577 to that same £37,890 over the three years, or 6.5% over the period (as a result of increases of 3% in year 1, 1.7% in year 2 and 1.67% in year three).

    And please don’t pretend that increments within grade aren’t pay rises – they result in increases in income and an individual being able to buy extra stuff, which pretty much defines a raise. Tell someone working in the private sector that increments don’t count as pay rises because, well – one’s entitled – and you’re likely to get laughed at. A lot.

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    1. Did you mean to say that they are reading them incorrectly in your first sentence? It would also mean that the calculator is set up incorrectly. I am spine point 23 atm so this is quite contentious for me, its a difference of about £4000 from what you are saying to what the pay calculator is telling me I will get!

      So, if your contention is true and the incremental rise will still be given, why does the calculator give a final salary of £33,779 for someone currently at spine point 24 on £29,626?

      Please do confirm if that’s wrong, you will make my easter weekend, I will buy Lindt bunnies and not Lidls own!!!

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    2. yes but some of those in the private sector get performance related bonus, profit sharing and share scheme options, oh and car allowances and private healthcare, all of which the public sector/NHS er don’t get!! so lets not pretend the NHS have it easy. My Wife works in the private sector and has done for the same company and amount of years I have been in this NHS job (5 years) and she has seen her pay increase by £20,000 not including the bonuses and I have seen nothing like that, which is exactly why I am looking outside the NHS for a job move right now!!

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    3. I think you’re confused. On point 24 they will get to £33,779 in 3 years (not £37,890) as there are no additional increments alongside the pay increase. They have got rid of those increments. I suggest you read the actual documentation to improve your understanding.

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  5. Disgraceful and not happy😠
    I have been here years and not had a proper pay rise on the top of my band
    So not going to get as much
    As the newer ones !!
    Council tax goes up more than we get our pay rise in a year
    This is supposed to be over 3years
    Come on get your act together
    You politicians wouldn’t get out of bed for what we get
    We work very hard in the nhs just to get a slap in the face worth a poor payrise!!!

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    1. Why is it disgraceful now? NHS staff have had their pay capped at 1%for 7 years and now that the pay cap has been scrapped due to union campaigning people say it is disgraceful and insulting!! Why weren’t you all banging the industrial action ballot drum for the past 7 years??

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      1. Scrapped due to union campaigning? After 7 years? Wow, effective campaign that, for a deal that is NOT a good deal. After years of below inflation increases, this offer is still barely in line with forecast inflation over the next three years. It does virtually nothing for longer serving employees, who are naturally more experienced with higher skill levels and does nothing to address recruitment and retention issues in key non-clinical roles (IT and finance, for examples) and in skill-shortage clinical roles. The award should have been at least as negotiated PLUS an inflationary uplift matching the Retail Price Index. Any extra enhancements should have been applied to all bands up to Band 6.

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  6. thank god someone has noticed this!!! my pay rise is £1000 over 3 years, some of us (50%0 of the work force do NOT get yearly increments!!!!

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  7. I believe this is a misuse of stat too. this report is inaccurate. taking your example of pay point 24. Yes the head line is that other 3 years the rise at point 24 would be 14.02%- what this means is that paypoint 24 in 3 years time will be 14.02% higher however the individual will not still be on paypoint equivalent in 3 years!!
    assuming no increment in apr- someone on paypoint 24 will move from £29,626 to £31,121. at their next increment they would move to £32,171. then next april they would move to £33,587 then next increment they would move to £34,782 etc etc.

    so in 3 years time their salary will be more like 20% higher than it is now, less with increments. I am not saying this is a great deal but please be accurate when we critique

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    1. right back at you, please check your accuracy. The increments will not be yearly anymore and they are scrapping the pay points so that some will have a bottom point, mid point and top point and nothing in between and you have to wait a “minimum” of two years before you can be considered to get each new point with no guarantee! and for some bands there is only a top and a bottom and a 5 year minimum period, they are different for each band. Read the pay deal fully and in detail!

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  8. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but you haven’t taken into account the increments being worth more as the years pass on?? Sorry hard to explain but…..
    Your first example, the person on pay point 24, the person would move from £29,626 to £32,731 on the current scales with their increments. You say the new deal increases pay point 24 from £29626 to £33,779 which is an increase of 14.02% but they would also have had 3 increments meaning they would be on £37,890.

    So that’s actually an increase of 21.81%…
    Minus the 10.48% they would of had from their increments anyway that still means an increase of 11.33%……

    At least that’s how I’m seeing it!!!!

    Just for info, I work in the NHS and at trying to get my head round it all.
    Apologies if my maths are wrong or I’m seeing it wrong.

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    1. sadly you are wrong. The increments will not be yearly anymore and they are scrapping the pay points so that some will have a bottom point, mid point and top point and nothing in between and you have to wait a “minimum” of two years before you can be considered to get each new point with no guarantee! and for some bands there is only a top and a bottom and a 5 year minimum period, they are different for each band. This is explained in the pay deal webpage: http://www.nhsemployers.org/your-workforce/2018-contract-refresh/breakdown-by-pay-band

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  9. Surely if you are comparing a salary at level 27 in three years when you say the level 24 would have been anyway, you are being disingenuous to compare it to a level 24 pay rise. You give an example of a level 24 and say it would have risen to a level 27 in three years anyway and you should compare the pay, but you compare it to a level 24 pay.

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  10. My union, The Society of Radiographers, are holding a consultation exercise with members. It is inaccurate to suggest we have signed up to this offer. I hope we don’t because it is shrouded in ‘spin’ and falls well short of the real terms pay cut we have suffered in recent years.

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  11. Spot on. We no longer have any real journalism on Tory government claims which are now – reguarly – shown to be the kind of lies and half-truths that give the whole political class a very dirty name.

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  12. By the time you have enough experience to apply for band 6 post you’re top band 5 so enter band 6 mid increment. Same for progressing to band 7, no one jumps from 5 to 7. So who is actually getting the biggest gains? Not us.
    All very well to attract new nurses…….from where but more are leaving the register than joining and this does nothing to stop that.

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  13. This article is really unhelpful. Pease read the facts here: https://www.nhspay.org/
    Yes in some cases the percentage increases do include the increments that (are currently) automatic but Band 1 is being removed so the lowest paid NHS staff will potentially have a significant pay increase and increased earning potential. For other staff the progression through their bands will be quicker. On average its 2.5% per increase year. Those at the top of their will also receive this and and it applies to high cost living allowance. Remember also this is an offer not an agreement which has to be consulted on with union members. If it’s rejected the Tories will revert to 1% recommended by the Pay Review Body. I wonder how people commenting on here are in a union let alone have been actively campaigning for a end to the freeze on public sector pay.

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    1. Please read the selective facts here you mean? If the government of the day wishes to absolutely guarantee the loss of well over a million votes, it is perfectly welcome to impose a 1% deal. Please remember the Pay Review Body actually was nobbled by the brief it was given before it even began the review process.

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  14. At the end of the day, maths aside, you all work far harder than your pay reflects, no matter what the increase is it wouldn’t match your dedication, i for one, thank you all.

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  15. It’s what we all know our politicians are underhanded, self serving and not to be trusted and on the whole unaccountable. This the sort of behaviour that eventually could lead to an uprising of the people. With the media seemingly colluding, it”s frankly scary.

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  16. Correct me if I’m wrong but in the first worked example, you include increments in the government calculations but ignore them in your own? So point 24 over 3 years has the potential to not only get the proposed pay rise but also move to point 27. I absolutely support everyone getting the best deal but let’s be accurate.

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    1. Hi. No, that’s not correct. I’ve nowhere argued that staff will not receive their increments, but that the government are including this “old” money (increments that staff would have been receiving anyway) in their apparent “new” pay rises, in order to inflate their value.

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    2. Nope. At payband 24, If I would have had a 3.8% pay rise and the flat rate increase of £800 as promised, along with my increments, I’d be better off in 3 years time.

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  17. This is NOT a good deal. After years of below inflation increases, this offer is still barely in line with forecast inflation over the next three years. It does virtually nothing for longer serving employees, who are naturally more experienced with higher skill levels and does nothing to address recruitment and retention issues in key non-clinical roles (IT and finance, for examples) and in skill-shortage clinical roles. The award should have been at least as negotiated PLUS an inflationary uplift matching the Retail Price Index. Any extra enhancements should have been applied to all bands up to Band 6.

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  18. Shame you haven’t shown the band two scale £1800 is all you get over the three years if your on the top level
    £50 a month before tax and NI
    WELL WORTH IT
    I will be voting NO

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  19. We know that JH and TM fudge the figures. How many time have I heard they are giving the NHS more funding to cover essential services, what is not reported however is that this is not new money and there are caveat’s applied, to the extent that the funding allocation is minimal. The same applies to the ‘NHS pay award’ I wont get anything. Our pay has been capped for years but what else can the unions do? They are powerless at present. If the unions respective members do not accept the award, what then? Do we strike?
    Our, yes OUR NHS is being slowly privatised under the noses of our nation, so the fudging of figures by JH was to be expected. However, as DoctorOxford so clearly identifies what role do the media play? They should be highlighting these shocking states of affairs to the public. It is clear to anyone working in the NHS that the government want to privatise the NHS and breed discontent to the extent that NHS workers loose public support.

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  20. Thank you for this. At payband 24 band 6 is will take me 9 years to get to the top of my band. At my paypoint, the person one paypoint above me will be £5k a year better off than me and we do exactly the same job. Who decides that some nurses benefit more than others?As a specialist nurse, why would I accept that? I’ll just leave and do agency and earn double. I don’t want to leave the NHS or my job, but I will if this happens. Any pay rise should be fair, equal and timely to all nurses, at all bands.

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  21. For all those who think that the increments will still be yearly on top of the pay rise, please read the pay deal webpage: http://www.nhsemployers.org/your-workforce/2018-contract-refresh/breakdown-by-pay-band

    It explains here how increments will not be yearly anymore and that they are changing the pay points so that some will have a bottom point, mid point and top point and nothing in between and you have to wait a “minimum” of two years before you can be considered to get each new point with no guarantee! and for some bands there is only a top and a bottom and a 5 year minimum period, they are different for each band so please check to see how it affects you.
    Essentially, the maths work out that over time you will end up earning about the same as if you got your yearly increments on the current scale and had a 0-1% payrise a year and that’s if you get increments some trusts already have a stringent process for staff to ‘earn’ them.

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  22. Well done and writing this Rachel. I think a key question you raise is why mainstream media aren’t interrogating these figures, or indeed anything relating to the NHS put out by the DoH?

    I saw a splash across the media the other day relating to the number of people killed by the NHS due incorrect prescriptions, which is terrible of course but, the figures are in line with most other health systems worldwide. Since the figures were published by Jeremy Hunt’s DoH it makes you wonder why on Earth they are briefing the media like this against their own NHS unless part of a wider narrative being created of a failing health system.

    Brings to my mind the Conservatives Ridley Report from the 70s – “Denationalisation should not be attempted by frontal attack, but by a policy of preparation for preparation for return to the private sector by stealth.” I’ve written more/linked to it in my blog here – https://www.jamiesnape.com/blog/nhs/private-companies-running-nhs-services/

    Anyway again, we’ll done for writing this Rachel.

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  23. I’m at point 24 as a band 6. I contacted my Union (to whom I have paid in fees more than I stand to gain in the next 3 years) who stated… ‘Spine 24 is a horrible anomaly whereby over the three years of the deal members only benefit by a few hundred £s… this pay spine really doesn’t gain as much unless you are able to secure promotion to a band 7.’ I am voting against this insulting pay offer – I’d sadly rather strike or leave the NHS.

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  24. Sorry for coming in late but I am at the top of my pay band and applying for posts on the next pay band so I can try to stay ahead of the poor annual cost of living pay rises which are always less than inflation meaning a lower standard of living year on year for NHS Workers. I am struggling to understand the new pay system which seems to put people moving up a pay band on a lower salary with terms such as re-earnable pay and one may actually receive a pay cut until they reach the top of their pay band and then receive their re-earnable pay – doesn’t make sense to me. Can anyone explain how this will work as I cant find anything.

    Also a lot of staff working in secondment arrangements; which under the old system would see them climb onto the next pay band for the period of the secondment. Under the new arrangement all will start at the bottom regardless and not move anywhere or even receive less while working harder on the next grade which in my case not serve me well at all. A 2 year secondment if the person does not secure a permanent post at that grade would not see them benefit at all however short the period. HELP!

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