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12 per cent NHS PAY DEAL; Union bosses' joy after Government signs up to new wage package for thousands of staff.

Byline: Ian Smith

HEALTH workers are set to be offered pay rises averaging around 12 per cent.

Nurses and NHS workers are to be offered pay a minimum of 10 per cent over three years.

And a few will get more than 40 per cent, under a deal struck yesterday.

Ministers, unions and health groups immediately hailed the deal as a historic moment for the NHS.

They said it brought in the most radical changes since the health service was set up in 1948.

It offers potentially massive pay rewards to nurses, therapists, porters and support staff if they agree to sweeping modernisation, with reform of working practices and shift patterns.

Doctors, dentists and surgeons aren't included in the pay offer.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn announced the pay offer yesterday.

He said: "Agenda for Change will bring the most radical modernisation of the NHS pay system since its foundation in 1948.

"In essence it is about paying more to get more, so that staff who take on new responsibilities get extra rewards."

Ministers also pointed to the contrast between the way the NHS deal had been thrashed out over three years and the way the firefighters are refusing to link pay and modernisation.

Milburn said: "Agenda for Change proves that negotiation works.

"It is a fair deal for NHS staff and a good deal for Britain's NHS."

The basic deal, under the title Agenda for Change, guarantees a minimum 10 per cent pay rise for more than a million NHS staff over the next three years.

But it rips up the 650 different staff grades which limited the amount by which pay could rise.

It means workers who take on extra responsibilities and work unsociable hours will be rewarded with more cash.

Effectively, there is no limit to how much an individual can boost their pay.

And it is estimated that if staff take on every possible new shift and responsibility their wage packets could almost double.

But realistically the Government estimated that the average pay increase across the NHS would add up to 12.5 per cent.

The deal is also designed to help low paid workers by introducing a minimum wage of pounds 10,000 across the service.

Support workers will be able to take on tasks traditionally carried out by nurses, such as taking blood and giving injections.

Nurses will be able to do tasks currently done by doctors, such as prescribing drugs, to help relieve pressure on clinicians.

The incentives for working unsocial working hours are designed so that patients can benefit from more weekend and evening services.

First Minister Jack McConnell welcomed a "historic deal" on health service pay.

He added: "These are real increases, not slogans, in the pay of nurses."

Scottish Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm welcomed the deal in the Scottish Parliament.

He said: "We said we would make progress on low pay and today we have demonstrated that we are making progress on low pay.

"Obviously we want to continue to go on making progress but we can only do it on the basis of realistic policies.

"What has been announced today will be welcomed across the health service."

The proposed deal means the starting salary for a newly-qualified or D Grade nurse will be pounds 17,000, a six percent increase on current wages.

Grade E nurses will have a maximum salary of pounds 22,000 which is 6.5 per cent above the current top scale.

Healthcare assistants who are paid up to pounds 13,485 at the moment will have the potential to earn up to pounds 17,500 under the new system.

Front-line midwives can expect to earn a maximum salary of pounds 27,500 - an 11.9 per cent increase on their present top wage.

Health sector union Unison welcomed the deal, but warned not to over- emphasise the pay element because it "could raise false expectations".

The union's head of health in Scotland Jim Devine, said: "It is important to emphasise that Agenda for Change proposals are about modernising what was an extremely outdated and antiquated pay system.

"It was set up to tackle the inequalities and demarcations rife across all of the NHS."

RCN Scotland Secretary James Kennedy gave a cautious welcome to the deal. He said: "We are pleased that the negotiations on NHS pay have finished, but it's for our members to decide whether or not to accept this deal.

"The full details of the pay deal are very complicated and will not be known until January. We will then consult members, who will have the final say."

The GMB, which represents non-medical staff, welcomed the deal but warned that other issues still had to be resolved.

Senior organiser Alex McLuckie said: "There are still a number of things which will have to be dealt with locally, like bonuses, pay differentials and claims in progress.

"The pay hike to pounds 5.18 signals a significant victory for GMB Scotland's Magic Fiver campaign to take every NHS workers above the pounds 5- an- hour mark. There is talk about modernisation. If that means our people being given state-of-the-art equipment to work with then that's fine."

But Tory shadow health secretary Dr Liam Fox said paying staff more was not the only answer to NHS problems.

He said: "Paying deserving staff more needs to be set against the failure of policy where a 10.9 per cent increase in NHS funding has resulted in a rise of less than two per cent in output.

"We need to tackle the growing army of bureaucrats involved in the Government's endless paperchase at the expense of patients and taxpayers."

The deal still has to go out to consultation with local health authorities and if it is agreed it will start being rolled out in 12 NHS areas from next spring.

WHO GETS WHAT

New and Grade D Nurses will get a minimum of pounds 17,000 - a six per cent increase

Grade E nurses - who have more responsibility - will see their maximum salary rise 6.5per cent to pounds 22,000

Midwives get an 11.9 per cent to a maximum of pounds 27,500.

Health care assistants' top pay will shoot from pounds 13,385 to pounds 17,500

Non-medical workers will get a minimum of pounds 10,000
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 29, 2002
Words:1052
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