The move to include general practice nurses (GPNs) within the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) must see nursing pay ringfenced and equal to NHS terms and conditions ‘as a minimum’, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has urged.
RCN director for England Patricia Marquis also stressed ‘safeguards’ must be put in place to avoid ‘further inequity’ in the pay terms of nursing staff in primary care.
It was revealed last week that GPNs are set to be included within ARRS – which allows primary care networks (PCNs) to reimburse the salaries of some staff – within next year’s GP contract.
The move has been called for among the profession, amid fears the GPN role could otherwise be lost and concerns that nurses are increasingly being substituted by nursing associates, who are currently covered by the scheme.
Meanwhile, a recent report from the Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) found GPNs were ‘expected’ to supervise and train ARRS colleagues despite in many cases being paid less. The research, published last week, also showed GPNs were having to ‘perform rescue work’ because care was being left undone by ARRS staff.
Today, Ms Marquis said: ‘We hope ministers are at last getting the message that filling the significant GPN vacancies through the ARRS “bring essential nursing skills and capacity” that cannot be replicated by current roles included in the scheme.’
She urged the government to ‘ensure that this move will be given adequate funding to support its level of ambition and put safeguards in place to ensure it doesn’t lead to further inequity in the pay terms and conditions of nursing staff working in primary care’.
‘We would expect that this will help to start to align the pay terms and conditions of all nursing staff employed by general practice to ensure fair and equitable pay and look forward to seeing nursing pay ringfenced and equal to NHS pay terms and conditions as a minimum,’ added Ms Marquis.
‘There have been longstanding challenges recruiting practice nurses and while we welcome the introduction of GPNs into ARRS, we are keen to see the detail around it and understand how this will work in practice.’
The ARRS scheme, introduced in 2019, currently covers 17 roles including nursing associates, advanced nurse practitioners and pharmacists. Those in post are employed by PCNs on Agenda for Change contracts.
A petition calling for GPNs and GPs to be added to the scheme recently surpassed 10,000 signatures, meanwhile the RCN’s primary care nursing lead Heather Randle told Nursing in Practice last year that ARRS was ‘devaluing GPNs as the skilled workforce they are’.
The RCN has been surveying GPNs in England over their 2023-24 pay uplift after concerns were raised many would miss out on the full 6% increase they were promised by the government.
Nursing in Practice has asked the government for more details on the ARRS announcement as well as a response to the RCN.