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GPNs need Agenda for Change ‘as a minimum’, says RCN

GPNs need Agenda for Change ‘as a minimum’, says RCN
Patricia Marquis

Exclusive The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is seeking for general practice nurses (GPNs) to have their pay and conditions in line with those working in the NHS ‘as a minimum’.

In an exclusive interview with Nursing in Practice, RCN England director Patricia Marquis gave an update on its pay campaign for GPNs.

It comes as the British Medical Association (BMA) is balloting its members on whether to take ‘collective action’ against this year’s GP Contract uplift, which includes a staff pay rise of just 2%.

While GPNs cannot vote in the ballot, they are being urged to get involved in the BMA’s campaign and become part of its discussion around pay.

Ms Marquis said the ‘long-term aspiration’ of the RCN was to ‘secure a model that has ringfenced funding available’ to uplift the pay of practice nursing staff.

She explained that because of the complex funding formula used in general practice, it meant different practices received different levels of funding based on various factors, including patient demographics.

This meant that when the government promised all practice staff in England a 6% pay rise last year, some practices did not receive enough funding while others potentially received more than enough to pay the uplift.

According to an RCN survey, more than three-quarters of GP nursing staff in England did not get the full 6% rise for 2023-24.

And the RCN is concerned this issue will continue to happen until protected funding is given to GP practices for staff pay.

Ms Marquis said the ‘clear, agreed position’ of the RCN was that it was seeking Agenda for Change – the contract used in the NHS – ‘as a minimum’ for GPNs.

‘But we believe this won’t be achieved without ringfenced funding being available through the GP contracting process,’ she told Nursing in Practice.

Ensuring GPNs were on Agenda for Change was also about having better terms and conditions, she said, including things such as sick pay, annual leave and access to education.

Ms Marquis stressed this was the long-term aim of the RCN and that in the meantime, its focus was on yearly uplifts and supporting GPNs to negotiate their pay, terms and conditions at practice level.

‘Our direction this year will be to try to support members to negotiate something more than they would have got if they didn’t negotiate for this year,’ she said.

‘And we’ll do the same next year if we have to. That will be the plan going forward until we get to the point where we can try and secure a national agreement on it.’

RCN seeking ‘formal agreement’ with BMA

The RCN has been working more closely with the BMA since concerns ramped up over the disparities in practice funding and staff pay.

Ms Marquis said the RCN was meeting with the BMA’s GP Committee on a ‘regular basis’ and that the longer-term aim was to seek ‘some sort of formal agreement with them’ around the college’s asks for GPN pay and conditions.

As previously reported, the BMA is balloting its members until the end of this month on collective action that could see GPs refusing to engage in advice and guidance and seeing patients ‘face to face as a default’ in August.

The BMA is also hosting a series of ‘roadshow’ events in England over the coming weeks where attendees will be updated on what has changed under the imposed GP contract for 2024-25, as well as its plans for action.

Practice nurses are being encouraged to attend the roadshows and have been urged by the BMA to ‘be part of the solution to uplift the contract to uplift their pay’.

A recent roundtable hosted by Nursing in Practice saw GPNs weigh up the pros and cons of being employed independently by GP practices and not on a national pay structure.

Meanwhile, our GPN Manifesto for 2024 saw the government urged to ensure practice nurses ‘have the same pay, terms and conditions as their secondary care colleagues’.

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