National sector body Social Enterprise UK (SEUK) is seeking a judicial review over what it has called an ‘inequitable, two-tier system’ of government funding for a one-off bonus for nurses.
The agreed NHS pay deal 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.
However, eligibility for the non-consolidated payments covers staff directly employed by NHS organisations, meaning the government is not funding the one-off payments for nurses working for social enterprise employers delivering NHS community services, despite them being aligned to Agenda for Change contracts.
According to SEUK, this potentially affects large numbers of district and home care nurses.
SEUK was among several organisations who wrote to the health and social care secretary, Steve Barclay, in May and June of this year highlighting the ‘injustice’ resulting from the funding policy in relation to the one-off non-consolidated awards for 2022/23.
In June, the health secretary insisted that social enterprise employers funding the one-off payments ‘were the terms throughout’ pay negotiations with unions.
SEUK told Nursing In Practice that the application for a judicial review regarding the bonus had been filed around two months ago.
The government has been given time to produce a pre-action protocol response – due by the end of this week – after which the organisation may proceed with the action or withdraw.
According to SEUK estimates, there are around 100,000 social enterprises in the UK, with the organisation’s membership stretching to approximately 33,000.
Peter Holbrook, chief executive of Social Enterprise UK, said: ‘Social enterprises are a crucial part of the NHS family, delivering over a billion pounds of services and employing many thousands of staff while reinvesting any profits in communities, so leaving them out of the NHS pay deal is completely unfair.
‘We raised this injustice with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in early 2023, and we still expect them to intervene before the staff and patients of these vital services are adversely affected.’
Mr Holbrook added that the ongoing pursuit of the judicial review was ‘a painful waiting game, in which the DHSC has repeatedly missed its own deadlines to resolve the issue’.
In his June letter to the health secretary, Mr Holbrook stated that Mr Barclay had originally made a ‘clear and unambiguous statement’ that the NHS pay deal, including the non-consolidated bonus, would be implemented for ‘all staff’ on Agenda for Change’.
Mr Holbrook added: ‘We hope [DHSC] ultimately delivers what the health secretary promised all those months ago.’
A DHSC spokesperson told Nursing in Practice that the government was ‘currently considering our position regarding the funding of the one-off payments for 2022/23 for staff employed by non-NHS organisations’.
The spokesperson also said that the DHSC ‘cannot comment on ongoing legal proceedings’, and added: ‘It was agreed between all bodies present at negotiations, including unions, that the one-off payments applied to staff directly employed by NHS organisations, with all eligible Agenda for Change staff receiving the 23/24 consolidated pay award.’
Queen’s Nurse Reuben Collings started the campaign after he learned that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) would not be funding the non-consolidated NHS pay award for 2022/23 at his not-for-profit employer, despite the organisation ‘providing 100% NHS-funded care’.