Officials in NI claim that there is no funding for pay increases for health workers

nurses in a hospital with a patient (stock photo)

According to the Department of Health, there will be no funding for pay increases in the new fiscal year for the Northern Ireland health service.

It stated that only additional government funding or service cuts would allow for pay increases.

The specifics can be found in a response to the NHS pay review body's request for information regarding pay practices for the years 2023 to 34.

Health service employees in Northern Ireland have already started engaging in industrial action over their pay offer for 2022–2033.

For those with the lowest incomes, that increase of £1,400 is equivalent to about 9%, while for those in the middle, it is equivalent to 4%.

A different recommendation called for an increase of 4.5 percentage points for physicians and dentists.

Although it is anticipated that the main UK inflation rate will decline throughout the year, it was 10% in January.

In its submission, the department outlines its challenging financial situation, claiming that only because cost-cutting measures had already been taken did it have "a fighting chance" of breaking even this fiscal year.

Without making corresponding cuts to service spending or making more money available in-year, the statement continued, "There will not be the ability to afford a pay increase in 2023–24 in this context.

The department will need to manage our ongoing response to Covid in light of the financial situation, and will continue to put an emphasis on efficiency and cost-cutting measures, but they will probably have to make hard choices.

"Given that a significant portion of health spending—roughly 50%—is accounted for by pay, trends in pay costs continue to have a significant impact on spending on service delivery. ".

Strikers holding Unison flags
Over their pay offer for 2022–2031, health service employees have already started taking industrial action.

The health trusts in Northern Ireland have provided evidence of ongoing issues with staff retention and recruitment.

The largest, Belfast Health Trust, reported ongoing "significant shortages across all professional groupings, including nursing, social work, and social care.".

The Western Health Trust claimed that "increasing rates of pay" in the private sector was to blame for a "marked decline" in applications for estates staff, which includes jobs like electricians.

The trust claimed that higher pay bands offered across the border by the Republic of Ireland's Child and Family Agency were luring newly qualified and qualified staff in the field of social work.

Nurses, ambulance drivers, and hospital employees joined picket lines as part of Tuesday's action by the health and public service unions Unite, Unison, Nipsa, and GMB in a pay dispute.

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