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RCN: ‘Government must extend pay deal to primary care nurses’

The Royal College of Nursing has called on health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt to extend the proposed pay deal in England to nurses working outside of the NHS, including those in primary care employed by GP practices.

In a letter to Mr Hunt, chief executive Janet Davies has called on additional funding to be made available to ‘level the playing field’ and ensure a ‘gap in pay’ does not manifest itself between nurses within the NHS, and those employed elsewhere.

She said: ‘I urge you to consider how to address the pay of all nurses and healthcare assistants providing NHS services, whoever their employer, so that a gap in pay does not result in workers being drawn away from primary, community and social care services. This would include those employed by social enterprises, general practice, social care, arms-length bodies, independent and charitable providers.’

In March, the Government announced a pay deal had been agreed with unions for NHS staff in England, with nursing staff to receive pay rises between 6.5-22% depending on their current pay point.

Unions are currently allowing their NHE-employed members to vote on the proposal, with consultations across all the major bodies now open.

Extracts from the letter to Jeremy Hunt

I urge you to consider how to address the pay of all nurses and healthcare assistants providing NHS services, whoever their employer, so that a gap in pay does not result in workers being drawn away from primary, community and social care services. This would include those employed by social enterprises, general practice, social care, arms-length bodies, independent and charitable providers. I recognise that budget for such a shift is not readily available, however, I do believe that without this additional funding, we will see a dangerous imbalance of the workforce, which will significantly harm patients of non-NHS services.

Ring-fenced funding to improve the pay, terms and conditions of all nurses and health care support workers employed by contractors delivering NHS services would help employers address the significant recruitment and retention problems and ultimately, to deliver better patient care.

Our members already feel disenfranchised when transferred out of NHS employment, especially when still working alongside their directly employed NHS colleagues. Many of our members delivering NHS services but not employed by NHS organisations complain that they endure poorer working conditions, loss of career and education opportunities, less clinical leadership and have concerns about maintaining safe and effect best practice.

To facilitate a more integrated way in which we look at the pay of all nurses and healthcare staff, we recommend the establishment of a new and separate national staff council, negotiating for all nurses and care assistants in health and social care who are not directly employed by an NHS organisation. A new inclusive sector council would provide a mechanism to improve workforce planning, recruitment, retention, staff engagement, employment skills, standards of care and productivity across independent health and social care. A staff council would also facilitate future pay discussions for staff in this sector to take place in an effective manner; engaging all parties, including the government, employers and trade representatives and trade unions in ensuring that there is a level playing field on pay and conditions for all providers and nursing staff working in this diverse sector.

With an average turnover of over thirty per cent, recruitment and retention of nursing and care staff is even more challenging in the social care sector than in the NHS. It is of note that more patient care is delivered in the social care sector than in NHS hospitals. A new inclusive sector council would provide a mechanism to improve the range of workforce issues across independent health and social care.

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