NHS chiefs fail to defend Agenda for Change red tape

MPs have attacked health chiefs for failing to ensure Agenda for Change delivered promised gains in staff productivity.

NHS chief executive David Nicholson and Department of Health workforce director Clare Chapman appeared in front of the public accounts committee yesterday afternoon for its inquiry into NHS pay modernisation.

Committee member Richard Bacon, a Conservative MP, said he was “puzzled” as to why the DH did not know whether the pay system, introduced in 2004, had resulted in planned yearly productivity rises of between 1.1 and 1.5 per cent.

He said: “You went to great efforts to set up an all singing, all dancing pay system and yet you can’t tell us specifically what it has done.”

Turnover and vacancy rates

Mr Nicholson said Agenda for Change was an “enabler” that had led to improvements in turnover and vacancy rates and encouraged trusts to create new roles.

It was difficult to identify how many of the improvements had resulted directly from the simplified pay system and how many were due to other policies such as expanding the workforce, he said.


Mr Bacon asked how the DH planned to hold trusts to account for improving staff efficiency.

Mr Nicholson said this was achieved through the tariff, which would probably require 3.5 per cent productivity increases next year.

Knowledge and skills framework

MPs also asked why many trusts were still not adopting the knowledge and skills framework, designed to support NHS employees’ career progression.

Mr Nicholson said: “It’s proving more difficult than the people who designed it thought. It’s generally well regarded by both managers and staff. There are issues about its complexity.”

Work was being done to simplify the framework, he said.

The inquiry was set up following the National Audit Office report NHS Pay Modernisation in England: agenda for change, published in January.


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