Agenda for Change

Health and Community Care – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:00 pm on 9th December 2004.

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Photo of Christine May Christine May Labour 2:00 pm, 9th December 2004

To ask the Scottish Executive how agenda for change will assist front-line NHS services. (S2O-4525)

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour

Agenda for change will provide better and fairer pay for staff, together with better personal and career development and wider access to training and progression opportunities. If national health service staff are better paid, trained and motivated, patients will benefit from better care that is delivered faster and to a higher quality.

Photo of Christine May Christine May Labour

Can the minister say anything about the outcome of the discussions that I believe were held yesterday between NHS officials and the trade unions? Some of the issues to be discussed, including concerns about changes to terms and conditions, were raised yesterday by Jim Devine of Unison in yesterday's edition of The Herald .

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour

To provide context for members, I point out that agenda for change was negotiated over a five-year period, with the direct involvement of the health trade unions. The trade unions were aware of all aspects of the deal and accepted them before the deal was signed—indeed, their members voted in favour of agenda for change. I expect those who are involved in the process to honour the deal. However, I have become aware that what I describe as bedding-in issues have arisen. I have asked the Scottish pay reference and implementation group—or SPRIG, which is one of those terms that I am learning more about—to consider those bedding-in issues and report to me to offer views on how best to overcome them. At the heart of the programme is a good deal for the workforce and for patients and I intend it to be implemented in full.

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

Is it the case that, as with other health service pay deals, agenda for change will not be fully funded through the Scottish Executive's allocation to health board budgets?

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour

Of course that is not the case. The Executive's funding for health boards has increased by 7.25 per cent in 2004-05, with an additional allocation of £70 million to assist with the changes, as well as additional resources for implementation costs. The agenda has been and will be funded by the Executive. We should look on the positive side: the programme will provide fairer pay for staff and better career development as well as being an agent for change and modernisation in the health service that will bring patients into the service, reduce waiting times and deliver a higher quality of care. I am certain that, along with the changes to contracts in the health service that we are negotiating, the programme will make a substantial change to the delivery of care in Scotland. Of course, it is being funded by the Executive.

Photo of David Davidson David Davidson Conservative

The minister will agree that agenda for change will result in a direct increase in costs to health boards in Scotland of 5.5 per cent in the first year. He claims that the costs are fully covered, but the statistics and figures on the new burdens that the changes will produce in the next three years, along with the figures on the reduction in capacity through changes to junior doctors' and consultants' hours and those on the additional costs of the out-of-hours services, suggest otherwise. Is he sure about his projection that agenda for change is affordable? Will he give a commitment that, if the programme is not affordable, no health board will be forced to cut services because of a shortfall in funding?

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour

The programme is the biggest change in human resources management in the health service since 1948—work on it has taken five years. To predict the cost to the Executive, we applied the West Lothian model for implementation to the Glasgow personnel profile model. That gave us the figures for the resources that we will put into the health boards—the £10.2 billion that we will spend on funding the health service by 2007-08. I am confident that the programme will be well delivered, not just managerially and by the workforce, but financially. I am clear that adequate resources are available to implement agenda for change and to deliver the change that we and the workforce seek. Of course, at the heart of the issue are the patients, who will get a better and more professional service and a highly motivated workforce. The health service will recruit and retain more people because of the big positive change in the working lives of the NHS staff involved in service delivery, whom we value greatly.