End of NHS strikes finally in sight as ministers ‘agree’ new multi-billion pay deal with unions


Ministers and NHS unions have today agreed a new pay deal worth £2.5billion in a move that could spell the end of a winter of strikes.

Industrial action by nurses, ambulance workers and physiotherapists has so far led to the cancellation of over 140,000 operations and appointments.

But their representatives today announced they have negotiated an improved deal with ministers worth an extra £2.5 billion.

If accepted, the offer will see all 1million staff on the Agenda for Change contract receive a 5 per cent pay rise in 2023/24, plus an additional payment to the lowest paid to bring them in line with the National Living Wage.

Each worker would also receive a backdated 2 per cent non-consolidated payment for 2022/23 and a ‘Covid recovery bonus’.

After weeks of wrangling behind the scenes, the Government has offered over one million staff a one-off bonus worth up to £3,800. They will also receive an extra 5 per cent for 2023/24. Pictured above, members of the Royal College of Nursing on the picket line outside St Thomas' Hospital, London in December After weeks of wrangling behind the scenes, the Government has offered over one million staff a one-off bonus worth up to £3,800. They will also receive an extra 5 per cent for 2023/24. Pictured above, members of the Royal College of Nursing on the picket line outside St Thomas' Hospital, London in December

After weeks of wrangling behind the scenes, the Government has offered over one million staff a one-off bonus worth up to £3,800. They will also receive an extra 5 per cent for 2023/24. Pictured above, members of the Royal College of Nursing on the picket line outside St Thomas’ Hospital, London in December  

Almost 140,000 ops and appointments have been cancelled because of NHS strikes this winter. That toll includes the biggest ever strike to rock the ailing health service on February 6, involving tens of thousands of nurses and paramedics Almost 140,000 ops and appointments have been cancelled because of NHS strikes this winter. That toll includes the biggest ever strike to rock the ailing health service on February 6, involving tens of thousands of nurses and paramedics

Almost 140,000 ops and appointments have been cancelled because of NHS strikes this winter. That toll includes the biggest ever strike to rock the ailing health service on February 6, involving tens of thousands of nurses and paramedics

The value of the bonus will vary with experience but the total pot will be worth 4 per cent of the total pay bill.

It means most staff would receive a one-off payment of around £2,000 in addition to the £1,400 consolidated pay rise already in place for 2022/23.

The Government has also agreed a series of non-pay measures, including steps to tackle violence and aggression against health staff, better support for career development and progression, and talks about how to improve the determination of NHS pay.

The suspension of pension abatement rules introduced during the pandemic will also be made permanent and measures will be introduced ‘to ensure safer staffing levels in hospitals’, the Department of Health and Social Care said. 

Earlier this year, the Department of Health and Social Care and the Treasury recommended a rise of just 3.5 per cent for 2023/24.

Read more: Stay away from AE, health chiefs urge as devastating 72-hour junior doctors’ strike enters final day – with union behind chaos accused of wanting ‘stunts not talks’

The new offer also includes midwives and porters but does not include junior doctors, who are on a different contract and this week staged a full three-way walkout in pursuit of a 35 per cent pay rise.

Both sides agree the deal is a ‘fair and reasonable settlement’, a No10 spokesperson said.

But one of the six unions involved in the negotiations stated it was ‘far from perfect’ and ‘of course our NHS workers deserve more’.

The NHS Staff Council, which include the Department of Health, NHS England, NHS Employers and health unions, met to finalise the details this afternoon. 

Planned walk-outs from the Royal College of Nursing, Unison, GMB, Unite, the British Dietetic Association and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists have now been suspended.

They will all ask their members whether to agree the deal or not.

If they accept, strikes that have plagued the ailing health service for months will finally be officially over.

In a statement the Department of Health and Social Care said talks ‘have been constructive’ and the offer put forward by the Government is ‘a final offer’. 

The Government ‘firmly believes this is a fair and reasonable deal for Agenda for Change staff’, it added.

The deal also marks a ‘fair deal for taxpayers and will ensure we can continue to reduce inflation’, it said. 

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said the offer amounts to ‘a fair pay rise’.

He said: ‘I hugely admire the incredible work of NHS staff, including during the pandemic and the progress they have made to tackle the resulting backlog.

‘This offer will give nurses, paramedics, physiotherapists and other non-medical staff a fair pay rise while protecting our commitment to halve inflation.

‘We have engaged in constructive and meaningful discussions with unions and NHS Employers and I look forward to continuing our work together to make the NHS a better place to work.’

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also said he is ‘really pleased’ that the Government and unions have come to an agreement that will end the strike action.

‘It is right that we reward our hardworking NHS staff, who showed bravery and dedication throughout the pandemic and continue to make phenomenal progress to tackle waiting lists,’ he said.

‘Importantly this deal is also affordable for the taxpayer and continues to deliver on my promise to halve inflation.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay, speaking to broadcasters in his department, said he was ‘very pleased’ that the NHS Staff Council had ‘agreed to recommend’ the Government’s formal offer.

He said it includes a 5 per cent pay rise for 2023/24 and an ‘additional lump sum’ for this year, meaning a newly qualified nurse would get an extra £1,800 this year on top of the existing deal and a pay rise of more than £1,300 next year.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said the offer amounts to 'a fair pay rise'. He said: 'I hugely admire the incredible work of NHS staff, including during the pandemic and the progress they have made to tackle the resulting backlog. This offer will give nurses, paramedics, physiotherapists and other non-medical staff a fair pay rise while protecting our commitment to halve inflation'. Pictured above, today with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at St George's hospital, London Health Secretary Steve Barclay said the offer amounts to 'a fair pay rise'. He said: 'I hugely admire the incredible work of NHS staff, including during the pandemic and the progress they have made to tackle the resulting backlog. This offer will give nurses, paramedics, physiotherapists and other non-medical staff a fair pay rise while protecting our commitment to halve inflation'. Pictured above, today with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at St George's hospital, London

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said the offer amounts to ‘a fair pay rise’. He said: ‘I hugely admire the incredible work of NHS staff, including during the pandemic and the progress they have made to tackle the resulting backlog. This offer will give nurses, paramedics, physiotherapists and other non-medical staff a fair pay rise while protecting our commitment to halve inflation’. Pictured above, today with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at St George’s hospital, London 

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said he is 'really pleased' that the Government and unions have come to an agreement that will end the strike action. Pictured today during a visit to St George's hospital in London Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said he is 'really pleased' that the Government and unions have come to an agreement that will end the strike action. Pictured today during a visit to St George's hospital in London

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said he is ‘really pleased’ that the Government and unions have come to an agreement that will end the strike action. Pictured today during a visit to St George’s hospital in London 

The Royal College of Nursing, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, Unison and GMB, which are on the NHS Staff Council, say they will advise their members to accept the deal.

But Unite, which is also on the council, said it will not make a recommendation to accept or refuse and fellow member the Royal College of Midwives is yet to comment.

Sharon Graham, general secretary of Unite, said: ‘The offer from government is not one that Unite can recommend to our members, but ultimately it is important that our members make the final decision.

‘Unite will support members in whichever decision they now make.’

Meanwhile Jill Taylor, chair of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy’s employment committee, said: ‘This pay offer is far from perfect and represents only a step on the way to getting the full pay value and recognition that CSP members deserve. 

Rachel Harrison, GMB national secretary also warned ‘of course our NHS workers deserve more’. 

She said: ‘Thanks to the strength and hard work of GMB’s NHS members, the Government has gone from refusing to talk about pay to putting an extra 2.5 billion pounds on the table for this year.

‘GMB members should rightly be proud of themselves. It’s been a tough road but they have faced down the Department of Health and won an offer that we feel is the best that can be achieved at this stage through negotiation.

‘This offer is far from perfect, and of course our NHS workers deserve more.’

RCN general secretary and chief executive, Pat Cullen, added: ‘The government was forced into these negotiations and to reopen the pay award as a result of the historic pressure from nursing staff. 

‘Members took the hardest of decisions to go on strike and I believe they have been vindicated today.

‘After tough negotiations, there are a series of commitments here that our members can see will make a positive impact on the nursing profession, the NHS and the people who rely on it.’

She said: ‘Our members will have their say on it and I respect everybody’s perspective. Each should look closely at what it means for them.

‘As well as the additional money now, we have made real progress with the government on safe staffing measures, a new pay structure for nursing, support for newly qualified staff and pensions too.

‘It is not a panacea, but it is real tangible progress and the RCN’s member leaders are asking fellow nursing staff to support what our negotiations have secured.’

Meanwhile UNISON head of health Sara Gorton, said: ‘It’s a shame it took so long to get here. 

‘Health workers had to take many days of strike action, and thousands more had to threaten to join them, to get their union into the room and proper talks underway.’

The offer does not cover junior doctors, who this week launched their own three-day walk-out in pursuit of an inflation-busting 35 per cent pay hike The offer does not cover junior doctors, who this week launched their own three-day walk-out in pursuit of an inflation-busting 35 per cent pay hike

The offer does not cover junior doctors, who this week launched their own three-day walk-out in pursuit of an inflation-busting 35 per cent pay hike

The uplift junior doctors, who make up half the medical workforce, are seeking would cost £2billion, around 1.3 per cent of the £152.6billion NHS budget. The BMA said the workforce has suffered a 26 per cent real-terms cut to their pay since 2008/09 The uplift junior doctors, who make up half the medical workforce, are seeking would cost £2billion, around 1.3 per cent of the £152.6billion NHS budget. The BMA said the workforce has suffered a 26 per cent real-terms cut to their pay since 2008/09

The uplift junior doctors, who make up half the medical workforce, are seeking would cost £2billion, around 1.3 per cent of the £152.6billion NHS budget. The BMA said the workforce has suffered a 26 per cent real-terms cut to their pay since 2008/09

Health Secretary Steve Barclay has now called on junior doctors to follow the example of other health unions which have settled with the Government and call off their industrial action and enter into talks on pay.

‘We have offered the same terms to the junior doctors that were accepted by the other trade unions and that is what I hope the junior doctors will respond to,’ he said.

‘But a request from them for a pay rise of 35 per cent is not affordable. 

‘That is why we need to see from them the same sort of leadership that we have seen from the trade unions in the Agenda for Change contract.’

Junior doctors, who make up half the medical workforce, are seeking a 35 per cent uplift — which would cost £2billion, around 1.3 per cent of the £152.6billion NHS budget.

The BMA said the workforce has suffered a 26 per cent real-terms cut to their pay since 2008/09.

Chief executive of NHS Providers, Sir Julian Hartley said news of the pay deal is a ‘hugely positive development after months of strike action’. 

He added: ‘But we must remember that this isn’t a done deal yet. Unions will need to put this deal to their members who will have the final say on whether or not it is accepted.

‘We are very encouraged by the guarantee from the government that there will be no impact on frontline services or the quality of care that patients receive as a result of this offer. 

‘We take this to mean that the deal is fully funded rather than relying on raids on NHS budgets, taking money away from key services. This is crucial to the success of the deal.

He said: ‘It is also good to see that as a result of this deal all staff will be lifted above the real living wage, something we have long called for.

‘We now need to see today’s progress matched by urgent movement on talks between the government and unions representing junior doctors. 

‘As trust leaders assess the full extent of the disruption caused by this week’s 72-hour walkout, their message is loud and clear: redouble your efforts to find a way through. No more strikes.’

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents health organisations, said health leaders will ‘breathe a sigh of relief’ at the offer.

He added: ‘We now await the decision of union members on this proposal.

‘Our members hope this will bring an end to the strikes we have seen over the past few months and allow them to get back on track with continuing to tackle NHS waiting lists and see and treat as many patients as quickly as possible.

‘Health leaders will also be urging junior doctors and the government to use this deal as a way of entering talks to address that dispute.’