NHS staff awarded below inflation pay rise

Unions are up in arms over below-inflation pay rises awarded to health service employees by the government.

Health staff will receive a 2.5% pay increase overall as recommended by the independent pay review body, but the chancellor, Gordon Brown, has decided that the pay rises should be introduced in two phases. For health service staff, that means 1.5% will be paid from 1 April and the remaining 1% from November. Health secretary Patricia Hewitt, said: "These are sensible increases, fair for staff, consistent with the government’s inflation target and affordable for the NHS."

However, union leaders have expressed their displeasure with Gordon Brown’s proposals. Karen Jennings, head of health at the union Unison, said: "We believe that 2.5% is low enough, without reducing its value even further by paying it in two stages. That means it is worth a paltry 1.9%. It is a real let down for Britain’s nurses and other health professionals, who really do deserve better. They will be deeply disappointed – for the second year in a row they are being asked to accept a pay increase well below the level of inflation."

Kevin Coyne, head of health at the union Amicus, said: "Amicus congratulates the work of the pay review body but we are very unhappy with the interference of the treasury and their decision to impose a staged settlement equating to 1.9%. This imposition makes a mockery of the independence of the pay review body and we believe our members will not accept this. We will assess the mood of our members in regard to the staged payment and the overall figure which may lead to an industrial action ballot."

Public sector wages will increase, on average by 1.9% which is less than half the 4.2% retail price index inflation (RPI) rate. MPs, prison officers, judges and senior civil servants will each receive pay rises below the RPI rate of inflation next year. The armed forces will get the biggest pay rises in the public sector in a bid to improve recruitment.