Fresh concern has been raised around the pay of nurses working in general practice after the government agreed to fund staff bonuses at eligible charities and social enterprises in England.
Chief executive of the Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) Dr Crystal Oldman told Nursing in Practice that it was ‘in the interests of the whole healthcare system’ for pay to be ‘clear and equitable’ for nurses delivering NHS contracts.
It was announced on Monday that the Department of Health and Social Care had agreed to provide funding to eligible non-NHS organisations to provide one-off payments to nurses and other health workers, following mounting pressure from the profession and health leaders.
However, concerns have remained that some nursing staff delivering NHS care will still miss out on the uplifts, which came as part of the latest NHS pay deal, because their contracts are not ‘dynamically linked’ to Agenda for Change.
The QNI had been among those campaigning for this funding from government since the issue was raised in the summer.
Dr Oldman said she was ‘relieved to hear that staff working for social enterprises and others delivering NHS services will now receive the pay award they are due’.
‘For many nurses working in the community it has added needlessly to their stress and uncertainty levels throughout this current challenging financial situation and the ongoing increases in the cost-of-living,’ she told Nursing in Practice.
However, she added: ‘The QNI remains concerned about the pay of nursing staff whose contract is not dynamically linked to Agenda for Change pay scales, and this includes nursing staff working in general practice.
‘People receiving care from nurses perceived to be working for the NHS expect them to be paid fairly and equally and it is in the interests of the whole healthcare system for nurses’ pay to be clear and equitable where they are delivering NHS contracts.’
The agreed Agenda for Change NHS pay deal, which followed a wave of nurse strikes, was made up of a 5% consolidated pay award for 2023/24, and two one-off non-consolidated awards on top of the 2022/23 pay award.
These one-off payments consisted of a non-consolidated award worth 2% percent, and a one-off NHS ‘backlog bonus’ to recognise the sustained pressure facing the NHS following the Covid-19 pandemic.
While most general practice staff are not aligned to Agenda for Change, this year the government promised a 6% uplift for practice staff in England, including nurses.
However, in recent weeks unions have sounded the alarm around the way this is funded and have warned that some practices will not receive enough additional funding to cover the full pay uplift for salaried staff, while others could get more than they need.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has this month written a letter to the DHSC over the situation, warning thousands of nursing staff risk being denied the full 6% rise and calling on the government to provide additional funds if needed.
On Monday, RCN director of England Patricia Marquis used the government’s latest pay funding announcement to renew the college’s call for ‘nursing staff working in general practice to also be given their full pay uplift with the money similarly made directly available by central government’.