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Pharmacists give cautious welcome to NHS staff pay rise proposals

NHS staff are being asked to vote on the 2018 contract refresh deal that union leaders and ministers formally agreed on.

More than one million NHS staff, including hospital pharmacists, are being offered a pay increase of at least 6% over the next three years.

Union leaders and ministers formally agreed the ‘2018 contact refresh’ on 21 March 2018. NHS staff are now being asked to vote on the deal.

It will cost £4.2bn and mark an end to eight years of wage restrictions for NHS staff. Pay was frozen for two years from 2011, and capped at 1% annual increases thereafter. Under the deal, staff will receive increases of 3% in 2018–2019, 2% in 2019–2020 and 1% in 2020–2021.

The agreement will also cut the number of pay points that apply to Agenda for Change arrangements, and reduce the amount of time it takes to reach the top of pay bands for most staff.

Ewan Maule, chair of practice at the Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists (GHP), said: ”Pharmacists in the NHS have been subject to eight years of pay austerity, and as a result we welcome many aspects of this deal.

“In particular we are pleased that this is a fully funded deal, namely ‘new’ money which is not being diverted away from other NHS services.”

He added that the increase in starting rates for new joiners to the NHS “should help to address some of the workforce challenges in pharmacy, particularly recruitment and retention at junior pharmacist grades”.

While the pay offer “doesn’t make up for the years of pay regression and it is long overdue, we do believe this is a good start”, he said.

The union Unite, which includes the GHP, will be balloting its members during April and May 2018, and will be recommending acceptance of the deal.

While welcoming the government’s pay increase for NHS employees, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) said much more was needed to repair the decline in pharmacists’ real terms pay and the working environment.

The PDA’s union national officer, Paul Day said: “This is better than NHS pharmacists have had for many years; however, this barely keeps real-terms pay in pace with inflation, and does nothing to take their earnings level to what it was before the government chose to restrict pay increases.

“Our members will not forget that the government chose to continue with the pay cap when they could see it should have been removed years ago.”

Chief executive of NHS Employers, Danny Mortimer, said the deal would ensure staff receive “deserved increases to pay, which will assist our work to value and retain these vital colleagues”.

The pay increase will apply to pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy assistants working for the NHS.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20204596

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