The money for the NHS pay agreement isn’t new cash, I’m told. This is going to cause a real ruckus with the trade unions, who came away from today’s talks believing that the £2.5 billion deal was extra money from the Treasury. But talking to my sources in government, I now understand that while there won’t be cuts to frontline services, the money could come from efficiencies elsewhere in the NHS, or possible underspend in Department of Health and Social Care budgets.
I’’ve also been pointed to the fact that there was no new money for pay announced in yesterday’s Budget, even though there might be some forthcoming in future fiscal events. A government spokesperson says: ‘We are absolutely committed to ensure the NHS has the funding it needs and these pay rises won’t impact on frontline services or the quality of care that patients receive. And as we have confirmed, the department has already made funding available for 3.5% for pay in 2023/24 in its existing budgets, and HMT and DHSC will work together to resolve any new funding needs in the usual way.’
This is going to be very difficult for NHS chiefs to stomach. They seem to have been blindsided by this, and will find any requirement for further efficiencies very difficult to manage given the impact of inflation and the fact that they’ve already signed up to a very ambitious level of efficiency – and the organisation’s chief executive Amanda Pritchard has already made clear she can’t go further.