Report of Group Secretaries Meeting 22.9.04

Delegates to the 2004 Group Secretaries meeting in London

The President, Tony West, opened the meeting by welcoming the Group Secretaries.

The meeting then continued with an address by Head of Health, Gail Cartmail. She outlined a very intense period over the summer - the culmination of the review of the AfC Early Implementer Review. The significant changes can be broken down into The careful plans laid out at the start of the process for the early implementers (EIs) on how job evaluation should be undertaken should have left little scope for misunderstanding on the use of up to date job descriptions and matching panels. Two EI sites proved this wrong. In Central Cheshire, the national profiles were ignored and jobs were matched wrongly. They are now tearing up their outcomes and starting again. City Hospitals Sunderland, in partnership, completely reinterpreted the guidance. The review did learn from both Trusts.

Head of Health, Gail Cartmail, addresses the 2004 Group Secretaries meeting in London

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AFC Proposed Agreement
It became apparent during the review that very few EIs would be in a position to test out the on-call arrangements. Most opted for the 4 year protection. For this reason, Amicus proposed removal of on-call from the agreement. There is also now no distinction between protection for local and national agreements, so on-call can be retained if desired. Unsocial hours were similarly unlikely to be workable as they were very unsatisfactory. The new proposals were little better. April 2006 is the deadline for an agreement on unsocial hours, and Gail will be recommending to the National NHS Sector Committee that there should be a third ballot of the membership; this time on the unsocial hours agreement eventually produced. All existing unsocial hours agreements therefore stay in place until then. The Amicus booklet accompanying the ballot paper will explain both this and the Nursing and Midwifery terms used if there are no national or local agreements. (see later)

The review also included a new band 9; several Amicus profiles having already breached the ceiling of 8d. The Chief Pharmacist profile, currently listed as 8c-above 8d, will automatically be relisted as 8c-9. Trusts will likely be discussing whether posts should be on band 9 or very senior managers pay scales.

Other changes include the removal of increment 1 on band 1 and some changes on the Cost Of Living Supplement.

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National Profiles
A survey form has gone to all EI sites and Colin Adkins is sifting through the results. In many cases, matching expectations are being met. A pre-reg profile formed part of a meeting with the Department of Health on critical profiles.

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Roll-out processes and Job Descriptions
Great pressure is being put on managers to produce job descriptions in short time scales. At the same time, review panels are starting to show that the reason many people are unhappy with their outcome is inadequate job descriptions - they need to be accurate. Northern Ireland have job descriptions reflecting the services at the moment. Additional information sheets are signed off by the job holder if they agree with them. If not, the job description is rewritten.

Gail is to raise this issue with the Shadow Executive and state that indecent haste is having an adverse effect and that strong advice needs to be issued. Members can resist pressure to rush job descriptions. What are management going to do? Discipline staff for saying no? There is no need for wholesale rewriting of job descriptions, just reviewing and updating where necessary. Because of problems experienced, Guys & St Thomas' Trust (GSTT) required job descriptions to be signed by management and staff member. Any grouping of staff into job families also has to be by agreement.

Some postholders have concerns about not being able to go to the panel to put their own case. EI advice was that doing so was not always a good idea and that there were pros and cons to doing this. Person specifications are vital and they are really only good HR practice.

It was noted that an unsubstantiated rumour was circulating in the Common Services Agency in Scotland that the CSA wanted to decouple entirely from AfC due to problems with their evaluations.

Amicus consider that insufficient work has been done on Admin and Clerical posts and a review is to be carried out. A lot of work is currently being done in this area.

Specific AfC questions should initially be referred to the local Regional Officer. An example of this would be paragraph 1.09 on statutory, regulatory duties and whether this can be applied to pre-reg tutors.

The ballot date will be decided by a meeting of the National NHS Committee on 28th September and is likely to be mid/late-October to early/mid-November. This was subsequently confirmed as running from 21/10/04 to 11/11/04 with the result being declared on 12/11/04. The 8th of October is likely to be the cut off date for new member applications to receive a ballot paper. So if you are not a member, your application form needs to be in and processed by Amicus by that date or you do not get a ballot paper or any say in AfC.

What happens if the ballot produces a "no" vote? There is no plan B. It is likely that Health Minister, John Hutton, would be on the telephone to ask why there had been a "no" vote and what analysis Amicus had done to identify the causes. Will there then be a third ballot on industrial action? No-one knows what will happen afterwards. Gail has told the DoH not to take Amicus members for granted. They form the core of bands 6, 7 and 8.

If agreed, most parts of AfC will be implemented on 1st October 2004. However, hours changes will take effect on 1st December 2004. It is highly recommended that salaries are checked by staff on assimilation. Finance departments have done their best in the EIs but, inevitably, errors have occurred due to the complexity and scale of the changes involved.

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The Emergency Duty Allowance is listed under on-call and will therefore be protected for 4 years. However, it will still be necessary to log the agreement with HR to ensure it is protected. Managers will need to ensure that staff are still signed up to it before registering it with HR. Any new staff would go into the same system.

If someone is on-call over a public holiday and don't get called out, they still get an extra day off. A minimum payment can be set locally e.g. 2 hours per call. The choice of lieu time or payment is made by the staff member.

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Unsocial Hours
Unsocial hours are hours worked as part of the 37.5-hour week during the period 8pm-8am Monday to Friday, all day Saturday, Sunday and public holidays. The differences between band 8 and the rest have gone. Hours worked at these times, but in addition to the 37.5-hour week are not unsocial but overtime.

e.g. Saturday morning working would count as unsocial if time off was given in lieu.

There is no national agreement for pharmacists. If there is a signed local agreement, this can be protected. However, it must be agreed by HR that it is an unsocial hours agreement and not actually overtime. Bands 8 and 9 do not qualify for overtime, only single time off in lieu (TOIL).

If there is no local agreement, the default position is payment according to the Nursing and Midwifery Agreement NM2/91. The supplement paid is

However, the maximum is capped at the top point of band 6. Therefore a band 6 pharmacist working on Saturday will be paid buttons. It will be less than time and a third. It will be even less for a band 8 pharmacist. The other problem is that few nurses or midwives actually get paid at this rate! Most go on the nurse bank instead, as it pays better. It is therefore an unfair component.

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Reduction in hours
This starts on 1st December. If it is difficult to drop to 37.5 hours, a business case needs to be made to show the effects on the service to obtain funding for overtime. There should also be no clawback of overtime payments for staff subsequently assimilated to band 8. As it is intended to be cost-neutral, the money will already be in the organisation albeit in other departments where hours have increased. In the previous document, staff could be required to work the extra 1.5 hours for 2 years. However this is missing from the new version. Clarification is being requested on whether this still applies.

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Annual leave under Whitley was based upon grade. Under AfC, it is based upon length of service. It is protected for an individual for 5 years if they stay in the job they are in. If they change job, they lose the protection. This may mean that staff do not move, and this is not in the interest of the service overall.

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What can members do?

  1. Get involved locally. Any email address changes need to be notified to District Members to ensure continuing information flow.

    Each department should have local Accredited and AfC reps - ideally 2-3 reps to make this work. Otherwise other professions will be making decisions for you and this will not be helpful. It has been realised that this will often be more difficult in the primary care settings.

    AfC reps are needed for three reasons

    • there will be more and more enquiries from members as interest increases with the date of implementation approaching
    • people are needed to participate in the matching, evaluation and review panels
    • people are needed to monitor the implementation to ensure consistency
    There is also a question as to who should police the implementation in the longer term. The more reps there are, the less work each individual has to do.

  2. Read all the documentation to ensure you know what is happening. This is especially true of the new version of the Knowledge and Skills Framework
  3. Get involved with Amicus colleagues. They are there and willing to help, but build relationships now, so that it is much easier to ask for assistance later.

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National Profiles (2)
The meeting then spent the rest of the meeting discussing the formal draft of the pre-registration graduate profile and the existing pharmacist profiles to see how the latter could be genericised to ensure they apply to as many pharmacists as possible.

Colin Rodden
23 September 2004

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