Practice nurses in Scotland are furious other healthcare professionals brought in to deliver Covid-19 vaccinations – who they often train – are paid significantly more than them.
GPs, dentists, optometrists and pharmacists who signed up as independent contractors to deliver Covid-19 vaccinations are paid £231 for a 3.5-hour session, equivalent to £66 per hour.
But practice nurses have told Nursing in Practice that they might earn between £12 and £15 an hour – £42 to £52.5 for a 3.5-hour shift – for the same work, depending on their agreement with the practice. Nurses on NHS vaccination shifts are paid Agenda for Change Band 5, which is between £12.74 and £15.66 an hour – including nurses who are normally on a higher band salary.
GPNs have expressed frustration to Nursing in Practice that they, as vaccination experts, are often training the independent contractors to administer jabs – who are then paid much more than them for the same work. They say they have even heard the newly trained vaccinators boasting about the money they are making from the inoculations.
Rhona Aikman, a practice nurses based in the west Scotland, said: ‘These people have never done injections, do a shadow shift with a nurse and watch them vaccinate, and then are paid five times as much as that nurses is paid to do the same job.’
One anonymous practice nurse based in northeast Scotland said: ‘I have over 10 years’ vaccination experience including running vaccination clinics. But my dentist who has never given an intramuscular injection in her life until now has been boasting about raking in the money.’
Practice nurses also described struggling to book vaccination shifts because they have been filled up by independent contractors.
The anonymous GPN continued: ‘I work with a GP who has never done a vaccination clinic until now but has loads of shifts booked and I can’t get any. But at the clinics I have worked, my fellow vaccinators noted my experience as invaluable. To not use us is a real blow.’
RCN Scotland and Unison have now called on health boards to use independent contractors as a last resort rather than offering them work ahead of their own staff.
RCN Scotland associate director Norman Provan said: ‘We have raised these issues and the need for a long-term sustainable approach to the vaccination workforce with Scottish Government. We would expect independent contractors to be used as a last resort in covering shifts.’
Unison Scotland head of health Willie Duffy said: ‘Using private contractors like this is a huge cost to health boards. They should only use these contractors as a last resort rather than offering them work ahead of their own and bank staff.
‘Although many professionals are qualified to give a vaccinations, NHS staff are not only the cheapest they are also experts, doing them regularly every day.’
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: ‘Many health and social care staff can deliver vaccines, and it is vital that we encourage as many staff as possible to join the vaccination effort. This ensures that we have a highly skilled, capable, able and resilient workforce in place to vaccinate the people of Scotland.
‘All staff employed to work on the programme are paid in accordance with nationally set terms and conditions and are working to agreed job roles, which come with specified rates of pay,’ they added.