I am responding on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the 24th Report of the NHS Pay Review Body (NHSPRB) (Cm 7646) which has been laid before Parliament. Copies of the report are available in the Vote Office. I am grateful to the chair and members of the NHSPRB for their report.
We welcome the NHSPRB’s 24th Report and accept most of its conclusions and actions which we will take forward.
The NHSPRB made one recommendation of a short term national Recruitment and Retention Premium (RRP) for pharmacists working in the NHS, paid at Agenda for Change (AfC) pay bands 6 and 7.
After careful consideration, I have decided to reject this recommendation because:
the recruitment and retention difficulties vary widely in England but are not significant in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland so a national RRP, which would be applied UK wide, is inappropriate;
in England, local recruitment and retention difficulties will be best addressed by increasing supply and using local recruitment and retention premia where needed alongside other local initiatives to support the training and development of junior pharmacists; and
the additional expenditure that would be required to implement the national RRP is unreasonable at a time when resources available to the NHS and the wider economy are being tightened and efficiency savings required from the NHS increased.
I am grateful, however, that the NHSPRB has highlighted difficulties retaining junior pharmacists in the NHS in England and, to address those concerns, the following actions are being taken forward:
the Modernising Pharmacy Careers Programme Board, chaired by Dr. Keith Ridge, the Chief Pharmacist for England, and responsible for the development of the pharmacy workforce in England, is working with the strategic health authorities to increase the number of pre registration pharmacy training places in the NHS from 2010;
updated guidance about the use and application of local recruitment and retention premia has been given to the NHS Staff Council which will consider it as part of its wider review of RRPs. The NHS Staff Council, made up of NHS employers and unions, is responsible for overseeing the Agenda for Change pay system;
we will draw local employers attention to the recommendations and deliberations of the NHSPRB about use of remuneration to resolve local pharmacy vacancy challenges, thereby informing their decision about whether paying a local RRP is appropriate; and
the NHS will continue to make use of specific local initiatives to support the training and development of junior pharmacists, for example, flexible working, protected study time and funding to support study for post graduate diplomas.