Pay, terms and conditions for nurses working outside the NHS is a ‘priority’ for the RCN council, and ‘crucial’ to addressing disparities within the independent sector, a leader on the work at the union has said.
Dolores McCormick, who was the RCN’s independent sector strategy programme lead until care home manager Mark Bird took over this month, told Nursing in Practice the RCN is working on a long-term independent sector pay strategy for the 40% of its membership outside the NHS.
She said the scheme, which ties into the RCN’s Fair Pay for Nursing campaign for nurses across all health care settings, has explored ideas including introducing ‘generic job descriptions’ for care home staff, which could ‘benchmark to NHS Agenda for Change (AfC) job roles and pay scales’.
Although controversy over the Government’s 1% proposed pay rise for NHS staff on AfC contracts has dominated in recent weeks, many nurses – including those in general practice and care homes – are not covered by AfC, meaning pay, terms and conditions can vary.
Ms McCormick said this has in part led to a high turnover and vacancy rates in social care. Practice nurses have also held ongoing frustrations around the variability in terms and conditions, with some forced to self-isolate because of Covid-19 without pay as a result.
‘The current nursing staffing recruitment and retention crisis will never be addressed if we do not correct this inequity’, she warned – and added that equal pay, terms and conditions could also be ‘crucial’ to addressing ‘the disparities in the quality and delivery of care within this sector’.
Although, she stressed the goal ‘will not be without its challenges’ because of ‘the complexity of the sector, the myriad of different employers, and the variations with commissioning and funding arrangements’, as well as a lack of data on pay and collective bargaining systems.
Other ideas emerging from the strategy include developing a ‘staffing dependency tool’, which can be used to calculate and review staffing levels, and a greater focus on ‘organising model’ that encourages members in workplaces to bring about change, she said.
Another tactic is for the RCN to pursue trade union recognition agreements with employers, which gives some leverage around negotiating pay, terms and conditions – although employers are ‘more often than not’ reluctant to sign up, she added.
Ms McCormick concluded: ‘In doing this we want to develop an RCN member service model that is more inclusive of our members and recognises that all members deserve an equitable service and representation.’
In December, the RCN published a transformational plan – focused on better engaging with members, member empowerment and growing membership in the sector.
If you want to get involved in the discussion, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also get involved in the RCN organising model here.