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Ministers accused of ‘passing buck’ over GPN pay funding gaps

Ministers accused of ‘passing buck’ over GPN pay funding gaps

Primary care minister Dame Andrea Leadsom has insisted that the government values general practice nurses (GPNs) ‘hugely’, but the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has accused ministers of ‘passing the buck’ on the issue of funding and pay.

According to an RCN survey, three-quarters (77%) of general practice nursing staff did not receive the full 6% pay rise promised for 2023/24, and almost half (44%) received no pay rise at all.

In a written question to health and social care secretary Victoria Atkins, opposition whip Taiwo Owatemi asked if an assessment of the potential implications of the RCN data had been made.

Answering on behalf of the health secretary, Dame Andrea wrote: ‘We hugely value and appreciate the vital work carried out by general practice (GP) nurses.

‘The government accepted the doctors’ and dentists’ review body’s recommendation on salaried GP staff pay, and increased the 2023/24 GP contract to provide funding for them to receive a 6% pay rise.

‘We expect all practices to pass this on to staff. As self-employed contractors to the National Health Service it is for GPs to determine employee pay.’

Responding to the statement, RCN director for England Patricia Marquis accused ministers of ‘repeatedly failing to understand or address’ problems faced by GPNs.

‘There is a significant gap between the value ministers say primary care has in our communities and how general practice is funded,’ Ms Marquis said.

‘Last summer’s pay award for GP nursing staff was not fully funded and has left the majority without the promised pay rise, with only a quarter receiving the exact 6% promised and many got nothing at all.’

She added: ‘The responsibility for this inequality lies with ministers who are passing the buck rather than providing the necessary funding.’

Ms Marquis recently revealed that the RCN was looking to work with GPs, local medical committees and chief nurses in integrated care boards to create a ‘collective narrative’ around nurse pay.

In her latest statement she emphasised that ministers could show how much they value and appreciate GPNs’ work with ‘immediate ring-fenced funding’ to allow the full implementation of the pay award.

‘Short-changing nursing staff is unacceptable,’ Ms Marquis added.

Issues around GPN pay stem from a complex funding formula in which the government provides funds to practices based on various factors including patient demographics.

In October 2023, it was confirmed that the global sum given to GP practices had been increased to help fund a 6% pay rise – promised by the government – for employed staff, including GPNs, in England.

However, because the global sum allocates funding per patients, it became clear that some practices would not receive enough additional funding to cover the rise, while others could get more than they needed.

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