Pay scales for NHS IT staff could be cut by thousands of pounds under Agenda for Change, a radical restructuring of pay scales set to be rolled out nationwide from 1 December.
With nursing and other trade unions backing the deal, the chance of IT staff finding their pay under threat at a critical period for the £2.3bn national programme for IT looks increasingly likely. Last week leaders of public service union Unison backed Agenda for Change.
The Department of Health refused to release a breakdown of how IT was affected by the pay structure at early adopter sites, but evidence from City Hospital Sunderland showed a pay range for all but the most senior IT staff of between £11,500 and £18,600.
Speaking in a personal capacity, Jill George, a member of the national executive council of the Amicus union, which represents IT staff, said, "The IT staff I have spoken to are incredibly angry. If it goes through they will be leaving the NHS, which will result in a serious risk to IT services."
Ian White, national council member of NHS ITmanagement group Assist, said his organisation had met the Agenda for Change team at the Department of Health and was "making sure the issues pertinent to health informatics were understood".
A spokesman for Assist said, "Assist has been asked to support the work of Agenda for Change. We are going through the process and looking at job roles and how they can be mapped into the generic structure.
"If [Agenda for Change] comes out with a process that does not sufficiently value IT staff and reflect the status of the IT profession, the danger is that good people could walk. We need to guard against that - the national programme for IT needs experienced and knowledgeable staff."
The Department of Health refused to comment on whether it had considered the implications of Agenda for Change on the progress of the national programme.
Critical time for health service IT
The prospect of IT staff losing out on pay comes at a critical time for NHS IT. The national programme, which promises to create 50 million electronic medical records in England, is moving into its implementation stage and will need IT staff at trust level who understand IT systems, the local medical organisation and the business change required before medical staff can use new systems.
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