North London MPs and Unison call for end to NHS pay disparity between boroughs
- Credit: PA
Hornsey and Wood Green MP Catherine West is calling for NHS workers in Haringey to be paid the same as in Camden.
Currently, NHS staff in the capital’s outer boroughs – for instance Haringey, Barnet and Brent – are paid less than workers in inner boroughs such as Camden, Islington and Hackney.
Labour’s Ms West labelled the pay disparity between London’s health workers “ridiculous” and her call for change was echoed by the trade union Unison, and the Conservative Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer.
Fellow north London MPs Keir Starmer and Tulip Siddiq called for a reassessment of NHS pay while the Department of Health and Social Care said the distinctions were designed to manage the additional costs of living in London.
High cost area supplements (HCAS) are paid on top of NHS workers’ basic salaries to help towards London costs. In inner London, the HCAS is 20% of workers’ basic salaries (between £4,473-£6,890). In outer London it is 15% (between £3,784-£4,822).
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In July, the government announced an above-inflation pay rise for public sector workers including doctors – but some health workers such as nurses, midwives and hospital porters were omitted.
Ms West welcomed the government’s pay rise but called for parity across the NHS.
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She told the Ham&High the capital’s inner and outer boundaries, established in 1963, which dictate the HCAS, were “outdated” and that the “whole of London has complex needs”.
Ms West said: “It’s ridiculous that if you happen to work in Haringey you’re getting less than if you happen to work in Camden for exactly the same job.”
Ms West said Haringey and outer London workers often have to pay more on travel, and that the pay discrepancy creates “instability” by encouraging workers to chase inner London jobs.
The MP continued: “You don’t really want people from Haringey working in Islington or Camden because they feel they’ll be better paid.
“If they could serve their communities where they are it’s also greener because then they’re not using emissions to get to places.”
Jamie Brown, Unison’s Head of Health for London, called the proposed reforms to HCAS “long overdue”.
He said: “Boundaries between inner and outer London are increasingly a bone of contention for our members with more staff being asked to work flexibly across ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ London.
“The reality is that the cost of living in London is extremely high no matter the borough and Unison believes NHS staff in London deserve decent, equitable pay to reflect this.”
Mike Freer said: “From my experience of being married to a teacher, I have long thought that the inner, outer and fringe supplements are outdated, and believe that pay should reflect the cost of living for the area, rather than being determined by arbitrary boundaries.
“This approach appears to me to be a common sense one that better reflects the cost of living in London.”
Tulip Siddiq, Hampstead and Kilburn’s MP, said the “need” to ensure equal pay in the NHS was “urgent” following health workers “heroic” role through the pandemic.
Labour leader Keir Starmer, MP for Holborn and St Pancras, called for “a proper solution for recruitment and retention of NHS staff, including the pay talks that NHS workers deserve” but stopped short of backing calls for the disparity between inner and outer to be ended.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The high cost area supplements (HCAS) within the NHS Agenda for Change contract are designed to recognise the additional costs of living in London, and those living in outer London still receive an additional supplement on top of their salary. Employers are also free to offer local recruit and retention payments.
“We are incredibly grateful for our NHS and care staff’s hard work and dedication during the pandemic and we will continue to ensure all staff are rewarded fairly.”
An NHS Employers spokesperson said: “There are long-standing arrangements, as in most sectors, for additional payments to NHS employees working within London.
“Any move to alter these arrangements would need to be discussed with our Pay Review Bodies and agreed with our trade unions, with any increase to any pay rates requiring additional investment from HM Treasury, so as not to disadvantage employees elsewhere in the English NHS.”