The Health Minister is on a collision course with two of the biggest medical unions after a senior advisor said NHS staff in Northern Ireland could be paid less than in the rest of the UK.
Andrew McCormick, the permanent secretary for the Department of Health, has said health bosses here will look at the possibility of breaking the current system of pay parity with the UK in a bid to save cash.
The proposals, however, could lead to a meltdown in the health service with some staff already threatening strike action over any move which would see them paid less than their counterparts in the rest of the UK.
The British Medical Association (BMA) and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have both issued strong warnings to Edwin Poots over any attempt to break away from UK-wide pay deals.
The basic starting salary for a junior doctor is about £22k while consultants can earn a basic salary of between £74,504 and £100,446. GPs are self-employed and their income varies.
The majority of nurses here are band five which has a starting salary of just over £21k. Nurse specialists, who provide care in a specific area such as cardiac, breast cancer or asthma, earn £25,500, rising to a maximum of £34k. The starting salary of a ward sister is £30,460 rising to £40k over seven years.
Janice Smyth, director of the RCN, said nurses across Northern Ireland — who have already been hit with a two-year pay freeze — will not accept the proposals made by Mr McCormick.
“As far as nurses are concerned, we have a UK independent pay review body which looks at terms and conditions and the RCN will totally oppose any dismantling of those agreements,” she said.
“We will not enter into discussions on the issue of pay parity.”
Pay scales and terms and conditions for healthcare staff are agreed on a UK basis. The Doctors' and Dentists' Review Body (DDRB) looks at pay for doctors and dentists, while the NHS Pay Review Body is an independent body which makes recommendations on pay for other NHS staff including nurses and midwives, who now face more cost cutting.