I was interested to read that English nurses in the public sector are very restive over the Chancellor’s decision to split their pay award this coming financial year with 1.5 per cent being paid in April and a further 1 per cent being paid in November. He has been rather embarrassed by his own party’s policy of devolution whereby the Scottish Parliament has decided to overturn his parsimonious decision and to award Scottish nurses the whole uplift at the beginning of April, probably on the sensible basis that a 1 per cent uplift in November is the square root of nothing at the individual pay packet level. Devolution will have a marked effect on health and we will soon have four divergent health services with differential pay rates across the professions. Scotland has taken a sensible decision in the interests of its nursing profession.

In the private sector, pay is linked closely to performance, both at organisational level and personal level. This can often mean no pay rise at all, if the sales aren’t coming in. Yet in the public sector everyone gets the same and expects it, even if their Trust’s finances are three sheets to the wind. When I worked in the NHS, I always thought local pay bargaining was a good idea for the NHS. Now we have Foundation Trusts, they will re-instate the idea. Hooray for Foundation Trusts.

The fact of the matter is that this third-term Labour government is being hoist on the petard of its own centralism in England, and devolution out to the three countries. The pay uplift should be an allocation to Trusts and they should negotiate pay locally with their own doctors, nurses and allied health professionals, based on the Trust’s performance and a whole host of other factors to be considered locally. You wouldn’t have to scrap the Agenda for Change pay spines, but there would be local variation.

However, the centralising pay policy of Agenda for Change, always really meant agenda for short change. Bring back local pay bargaining for nurses.