The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has become the latest organisation to call on the health and social care secretary to ensure the government’s latest NHS pay award is extended to all nursing staff, amid reports of funding gaps that will see many miss out.
The RCN has echoed concerns that some of its members working on contracts aligned to Agenda for Change, such as those delivering NHS care through social enterprises and community interest companies, have been told they will not receive the one-off payment or permanent uplift for 2023/24 because it has not been funded by the government.
Those working in NHS organisations as bank staff, including at NHS Professionals, have also been left out, the RCN said.
Earlier this month, Queen’s Nurse Reuben Collings launched a petition urging the government to fully fund the pay award, after learning that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) would not be funding the non-consolidated part of the deal at his employer – the organisation ‘providing 100% NHS-funded care’.
Meanwhile, health leaders, including the NHS Confederation and NHS Providers, sent a letter to health and social care secretary Steve Barclay earlier this month warning that unless the government provides additional funding to support the pay increase for staff, some nurse-led services in the community could be forced to close.
According to the DHSC, all eligible Agenda for Change staff will receive the 2023/24 consolidated 5% pay award. But it said that non-consolidated one-off payments, including the 2% award for 2022/23 and a one-off bonus for 2023/24, would only cover staff directly employed by NHS organisations set out in the AfC handbook, which includes NHS trusts, integrated care boards, NHS Blood and Transplant among others.
The government added that NHS funding to community interest companies, charities and social enterprises would be uplifted through their usual funding routes, but has not provided any further information on this.
The RCN has called for transparency from the government on funding and for the health secretary to ensure adequate funds are made available so that those providing NHS services receive the same pay as their NHS counterparts.
The college also warned of the potentially damaging effect of bank workers opting for agency work instead, ‘further destabilising the workforce by forcing already skyrocketing agency costs up even further’.
The RCN has written to Mr Barclay, calling on him to urgently resolve the issue.
In the letter, Pat Cullen, RCN general secretary and chief executive, wrote: ‘If this situation is not resolved, it will create a two-tier system for staff engaged on Agenda for Change terms and conditions and will do nothing to quell industrial unrest regarding pay.
‘It will also serve to increase reliance on agencies as encouraging workers to use bank systems, some of which operate well to quell agency costs, will only reduce further.’
The RCN’s latest appeal to the health secretary follows an open letter to NHS staff from Mr Barclay announcing that work is to start on implementing the non-pay elements of the NHS Agenda for Change deal, including enhanced career progression, safer staffing levels, reducing agency spend and improving NHS workforce welfare and morale.