Agenda For Change Update 16.9.02

General Background

The meeting was addressed by Barrie Brown, lead Amicus-MSF officer on Agenda for Change.
Barrie Brown and Michael Fuller

The next meeting of the Central Negotiating Group (CNG) will take place on 23rd September. This is perhaps slightly misleading, as proper negotiations have still to start.

Agenda for Change (AfC) is intended to deliver two things

1. pay modernisation and
2. modernisation of the NHS
There was seen to be a need to address pay, the various developments in the NHS since 1948 and the disparate terms and conditions throughout the service so there is also a part on harmonisation. Behind all this is the need to consider the equality agenda and ensuring equal pay for equal value of work. This consideration is very relevant when it comes to the key outcomes of AfC and also protection issues.

Very little negotiation has actually taken place. There has been a phenomenal amount of technical work, especially to produce an appropriate grading structure. This needs a single job evaluation system for 1 million people. The complexity of the task explains why there has been considerable slippage in the timescale since the launch of the project 3.5 years ago.

The first part was to identify posts for evaluation. It is expected that the process will capture the vast majority of posts, but the job evaluation process has not yet been completed. Only once the profiling of 200 key posts has been completed can the grading structure be created and then the pay bands and the pay structure. Commenting on the leak in the nursing press (see Scottish Secretary Report 9/02), Barrie commented that the CNG had never had those figures and would not have anything like them until October.

There will be around 9-10 pay bands for everyone except doctors and dentists and the banding will depend on the outcome of the discussions on grades. There is then the problem of the pay structures and linking to the pay spines. Spines 2 and 3 will start and finish at approximately the same point. The question is then why have two pay spines? For equal pay reasons, they cannot be allowed to diverge and the spine 3 award must be the same as the spine 2 Pay Review Body (PRB) award.

The work on the job evaluations is being completed at the moment and this is central to what will be negotiated. There are some other key points to note. Nothing is agreed until it is all agreed. There will be harmonisation of the other elements in pay. The Knowledge and Skills Framework (KSF) and the career and pay progression are also important. Management were originally aiming for a performance related pay (PRP) solution, but this is now a competency framework allowing all staff to progress. The Career and Pay progression contains a number of key elements including the necessity for appropriate support and resources to allow staff development and professional experience i.e. CPD.


There is a considerable degree of harmonisation contained within the General Whitley Council (GWC) agreements. However, the Functional Whitley Councils (FWCs) of which Pharmaceutical Whitley council (PWC) is one have each achieved significant differences in terms and conditions for the various groups they represent and for people working side by side. There will be one single staff council handbook. GWC is already there; there will be more difficulty in harmonising the contents of the different FWCs, which have different hours of work, annual leave, arrangements for allowances and out-of-hours. Management seem to be trying to harmonise with the biggest group of employees i.e. nurses. Hours are likely to be proposed to be 37.5 per week. Unsocial hours was a reflection of normal nurse shift patterns and therefore unsuitable for a lot of groups. Now it is to divided from standby and on-call allowances. Annual leave and public holiday harmonisation must result in something that can be sold to members. There must be no differential in leave between grades.


At the first meeting of the Implementation Group, it was proposed that AfC be implemented in April 2001. The scale of the technical work has caused most of the slippage, but the other factor involved was funding. Spending could not be allocated until the Comprehensive Spending Review was published. Within that increased budget are the costs of implementing AfC. There are three reasons for having early implementers

1. they will be testing all of the parts of AfC and
2. they will indicate the capacity required of both HR and reps.
3. it is more appropriate to stage the cost rather than have it all at once.
The list of approved early implementers will probably be published in 2-3 weeks and is with the Minister at the moment.
However, before early implementation can happen, the union must

1. negotiate a package covering all the above issues by the end of October and
2. consult with their members.
Because of the protracted processes required by some unions, it is likely to be January before the result is known.
All members must have a clear idea of what is in the package. There will be winners and losers, but the aim for Amicus is to minimise the losers. As part of the outcome, there will be protection arrangements on pay and other parts of the package. It is considered that there cannot be limitless pay protection for the losers due to the equal pay arguments. At the moment the DoH is proposing 18 months. In addition to pay, there are also pension implications. Staffside want the protection period to start at the end of AfC implementation. On the question of AfC taking precedence over existing protection arrangements there was no answer. This has to be worked out.

Q. How much information will individuals have for the ballot and when?
A. Members must have the full picture. Information will be on the website and distributed as paper copies. There will also be a series of roadshows. A questions and answers sheet should be appended to whatever is produced. In a job which is one of those which was evaluated, it might be quite easy to make an immediate judgement. Otherwise, it will be more difficult. Assimilation data will be required.

Q. From the previous list of evaluated jobs, a grade D pharmacist, one of the main career grades, was missed. There was an immediate response from the Guild, but there has been no information as to whether it was subsequently evaluated.
A. Barrie promised to check this out.


It will be necessary to clarify the posts which have not been evaluated and which will have to be evaluated locally on the semi-computerised system.

Q. Will there be a timescale for local evaluation?
A. There is a requirement to meet a timetable for most areas, but there is a need to agree backdating for any post graded at a local level.

AfC is an attempt to produce a grading structure which will stand the test of equal pay. As this is a key part, protection is a problem. I asked about rumours circulating that pharmacists were not doing well under AfC and was told that as the profiles were still being reviewed by Occupational Advisory Councils (OACs) for flaws and deficiencies, and the grading structure would be being looked at for the first time next week, the rumours were groundless and wild.

Pay Progression

Automatic incrementation of pay was thrown out at the same time as PRP. The competence framework applies to all staff and has principles to allow progression. Staffside are taking the view that it should be fairly automatic but the DoH wants gateways, or as alternatively described, barriers. All previous gradings are gone, so progression will be through the pay band. The question of where everyone goes in the pay band revolves around the assimilation process. This is likely to be as contentious as the gradings. The pay progression is closely linked with this and it should remove the problem where someone is sitting on the top of their pay scale for twenty years and unable to progress.

Appeal process

There will be no repeat of the 1988 clinical grading exercise, but everyone involved is hoping that the outcome will be so sound that it will minimise the need for appeals. Appeals will probably be limited to appeals within the employer. However, in Scotland, this does mean Scottish level, since NHSScotland is the one employer.

There is a lot to negotiate in October and everyone will be making every effort to be ready by then. All activities are based upon a package being agreed by 31st October 2002. if it isn't agreed then they will need to work on until it is ready.

Q. What is in the package that will improve service delivery?
A. All funding of AfC is directly related to improving service delivery. It will be up to Chief Executives to implement it.

Q. What happens if different unions ballot differently?
A. This hasn't been addressed on the basis that it could cause unnecessary tension within staffside. It will be considered, if necessary, once the package is agreed.

There could be large pockets of members within Amicus who might be unhappy with the results.
Unions will look at the totality of the package and make a decision whether they can sign up to it. Backdating is on the table for negotiation. As there is a 15month trial period for early implementers, the backdating date might be October 2004.

Q. Will Senior Managers, doctors and dentists appear in the figures?
A. The consultant contract ballot has yet to take place and the BMA and BDA have not been art of AfC. It could mean that once everything is in place there might be scope for equal value cases. Currently the DoH wants to exclude senior managers but Amicus wants them involved.

Q. What is the current time-frame?
A. The trial will last until at least October 2004. Irrespective of what happens down south, NHSScotland will have a debate about

1. HR capacity
2. payroll capacity
3. union capacity
If the capacity is there, there is no reason why the April 2004 target could not be met.

Q.What about next years pay
A. This is going ahead on the basis that AfC doesn't exist. That will be the case for this year and possibly next.


Colin Rodden
Secretary for Scotland
Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists

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