NHS pay offer: ministerial influence trumps the evidence

The NHS Pay Review Body is supposed to be an independent body, and in some ways it is; but in very important ways it allows itself to be steered by ministers and civil servants.

Its 35th report, for 2022, is a bundle of contradictions – offering some hard-hitting facts and revealing analysis, repeating some of the telling evidence the panel has received from trade unions and other bodies – but also being limited by the remit letter received from then Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid, which set them on a mission impossible.

Javid’s remit, written on November 30 as the surge in price inflation was only just beginning, requires any increase to fit within the existing budget – yet at the same time “ensure that the NHS is able to recruit, retain and motivate its Agenda for Change workforce:”

“As the NHS budget has already been set until 2024 to 2025, it is vital that planned workforce growth is affordable and within the budgets set, particularly as there is a direct relationship between pay and staff numbers.”

Given the scale of current and projected inflation the PRB has not been able to comply completely with this brief, but they have stopped short of making the logical call for extra funding to cover the excess cost of their proposed pay increase. That’s why ministers have been willing to accept the PRB recommendations in full.

Full story in The Lowdown, 25 July 2022