The government will impose a 5% pay rise for NHS staff in England following a meeting between representatives of 14 health unions.
While the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) remains in dispute over the deal, the majority of NHS unions had voted to accept the government’s pay offer, after months of dispute.
The pay offer includes a 5% consolidated rise for 2023/24, as well as a one-off payment of at least £1,655 for 2022/23. This comes on top of the around £1,400 increase that was originally given to NHS staff for 2022/23.
At an individual level, members of Unison, GMB, and the Royal College of Midwives all voted to accept the offer, while the RCN and Unite were the only major unions to vote against.
And today, the NHS Staff Council, which is made up of the health unions involved in the dispute, have voted to accept the offer, as a collective.
Health secretary Steve Barclay said he was ‘pleased’ with the news.
Mr Barclay added: ‘It is now my intention to implement this for all staff on the Agenda for Change contract and where some unions may choose to remain in dispute, we hope their members – many of whom voted to accept this offer – will recognise this as a fair outcome that carries the support of their colleagues and decide it is time to bring industrial action to an end.’
Responding to today’s vote RCN general secretary Pat Cullen wrote to Mr Barclay to announce the union’s intention to hold a further industrial action ballot.
Although Ms Cullen said she ‘entirely’ respected those who voted to accept the offer, she stressed this was ‘not the prevailing view of nursing staff’.
Ms Cullen added: ‘Two weeks ago, I accepted your invitation of a meeting to discuss a way forward and I would still wish to meet. It is my view that negotiations and a resulting additional offer that values nursing staff can prevent further action and bring this dispute to a close.’
Since the beginning of the dispute last summer, the RCN has held strike days over several months, culminating in a strike this weekend which was cut short after a judge ruled it plans would have been unlawful.
While the RCN had been campaigning for a higher pay offer, general practice nurses have expressed their concerns that pay rises in the NHS will impact recruitment and retention in primary care.
Speaking to Nursing in Practice before the deal’s approval today Becky Wych, a nurse partner at Combe Down Surgery in Bath said: ‘If they get a big pay step, how are we going to compete with that when we’ve got less money coming into general practice.’
The Department of Health and Social Care also announced that it is ‘working with the Treasury’ to ensure that the department has the finances to fully fund the pay rise.
Unison head of health Sara Gorton, who chairs the union group on the NHS Staff Council, said that NHS staff must receive the pay increase as soon as possible.
Ms Gorton said: ‘NHS workers will now want the pay rise they’ve voted to accept. The hope is that the one-off payment and salary increase will be in June’s pay packets.’
She also added that ‘health staff shouldn’t have needed to take action in the first place’.
While the pay offer also included a special commitment from the health secretary to consider implementing a separate pay spine for nurses, there has been no further announcement as to whether this will be implemented.