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Adding nurses to ARRS ‘not signed off yet’, says RCN

Adding nurses to ARRS ‘not signed off yet’, says RCN

The move to include nurses within the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) as part of next year’s GP contract ‘has not been signed off yet’, the Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN’s) primary care lead has suggested.

While it was revealed earlier this month that the government was set to add nurses to the scheme – which allows primary care networks (PCNs) to reimburse the salaries of some staff – Heather Randle said she understood the move had not in fact ‘been agreed yet’.

In addition, the British Medical Association’s GP Committee deputy chair Dr David Wrigley – who is involved in negotiations with the government and NHS England on the GP contract – said there has been ‘no hint at all of practice nurses being included’.

The comments came during a webinar, hosted by the RCN, for its general practice nurse (GPN) members on Monday evening.

While the event covered latest concerns over missing pay rises for GPNs in England, it had also been due to discuss the news that GPNs would be added to the ARRS scheme – an initiative nursing associates and advanced nurse practitioners are already a part of.

However, speaking towards the end of the webinar, Ms Randle said: ‘Another thing we were going to talk to you about was the announcement that nurses would be in the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme, and the reality is that has not been signed off yet.

‘That has not been agreed yet, as far as I understand. So, we don’t have the detail.’

While she noted that the RCN had been ‘fighting’ for GPNs to be added to the scheme ‘for a long time’, she added: ‘The devil is always in the detail.’

Ms Randle told GPNs the RCN does not know ‘what the impact is going to be’, if nurses are added to the scheme, or what the roles or requirements would look like.

Also attending the event, Mr Wrigley from the BMA GP Committee said despite pushing the government and NHS England ‘hard’ on GPNs becoming a part of ARRS, it has been ‘like talking to a brick wall’. ‘They just said “no”,’ he said.

Mr Wrigley added: ‘At the moment there is no hint at all of practice nurses being included.’

Though he stressed his union wanted to continue working with the RCN and GPNs, and would ‘back the corner hard for nurses, and ensure that they are rewarded and remunerated as best we can’.

The BMA has been involved in negotiations on the 2024/25 GP contract since November, and as exclusively revealed by our sister title Pulse, the government had initially offered an uplift of just 1.9% to baseline General Medical Services funding.

GPs are ‘really upset and angry’ about what has happened with negotiations so far, and the BMA’s GP Committee ‘was in uproar about what was on offer’, added Mr Wrigley.

He said the BMA was therefore ‘gearing up for a referendum next month and looking at what action we can take to sort of push back to government’.

When asked for comment, a spokesperson at the Department of Health and Social Care reiterated that changes to the ARRS were made through ‘wider changes to the GP contract’ and that the 2024/25 contract arrangements ‘are subject to consultation’ with the BMA.

They added it would be ‘inappropriate to comment further at this stage as the contract is still under consultation’.

Last year, the RCN and BMA pledged to work together to ensure practice nurses were paid fairly, amid growing concerns they were not being given a 6% pay rise promised by the government, due to the complex funding formula used to distribute the money to GP practices.

It was revealed this month that almost half of GP nursing staff in England did not receive a pay rise at all last year, while more than three-quarters did not receive the full 6%.

When news first broke of practice nurses being added to ARRS, the RCN said the move must see nursing pay ringfenced and equal to NHS terms and conditions ‘as a minimum’.

Speaking exclusively to Nursing in Practice at the end of 2023, Ms Randle from the RCN warned the ARRS had seen nursing associates and other roles increasingly being used in place of GPNs. She warned that coupled with ongoing concerns over recruitment and retention, the ARRS could see practice nursing eroded altogether.

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