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Public health staff pay rise row resolved

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NHS providers will not have to bear the cost of the £50m pay rise for staff delivering public health services.

Last month a row broke out between the government and NHS England over which organisation should fund the pay rise for NHS staff such as health visitors and school nurses who provide public health services commissioned by local government. This disagreement left NHS providers potentially facing large unbudgeted rises in their costs. 

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NHSE, alongside NHS Improvement, has now said it will “address this issue” so it does not affect providers’ ability to “meet their obligations for staff and deliver existing public health services commissioned by local authorities”, the Health Service Journal reports. NHSE will be covering the majority of the cost, as most locally-commissioned public health services are commissioned by NHS providers.”

The statement added: “Non-recurrent transitional relief arrangements” would be “confirmed in due course”, while the DHSC would confirm the arrangements for making funding available to eligible non-NHS providers delivering LA-commissioned public health services.

A DHSC spokesman said: “We have agreed that the costs of the Agenda for Change deal for eligible NHS providers delivering public health services will be covered by the NHS budget. The pay uplift for staff in eligible non-NHS providers will be covered by our budget.”

Ministers committed last year to funding the pay rise they agreed for more than one million NHS staff on Agenda for Change contracts. This included those working on public health services.

In 2018-19, the DHSC gave the money to all relevant providers. But, for 2019-20, the allocation was shifted into the tariff and NHS England’s annual funding pot. Providers were left uncertain whether they would receive the money. Several had to forecast the possibility of tipping into deficit, with community health providers particularly affected. 

Commenting on the funding agreement, chief executive of NHS Providers Chris Hopson said: “We are very pleased to see that this issue, on which we have campaigned hard, has been resolved for 2019-20.”

However, Mr Hopson stressed it is only a temporary solution.

He added: “We can not return to this position this time next year, so the complicated work to find a long-term, sustainable, solution must start now. The forthcoming spending review also needs to address the wider issue – ensuring local authorities can properly fund the public health services which are central to delivery of the long-term plan.”

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