The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has sparked outrage amongst some members after putting forward a new NHS pay deal for the Government including a below inflation raise and a separate pay spine for nurses.
The latest offer to the health unions on pay will be put to a vote by members. However, some RCN members have told Nursing in Practice they feel that the offer should be rejected.
Ruth Oshikanlu, fellow of the RCN, Queen’s nurse, and independent health visitor, told Nursing in Practice that ‘the pay offer should be rejected; we are worth more than five per cent.’
‘It’s about valuing the difference we nurses make. They asked for 19% and got five. We knew we weren’t going to get 19% but five is an insult.’
The new NHS pay deal, which the unions have agreed to put to a vote, includes a one-off pay out for the current financial year 2022/23, worth between £1,655 and £3,789 for Agenda for Change (AfC) staff in England and a 5% consolidated (permanent) pay increase for 2023/24.
Also included in the offer is a commitment to create a separate pay spine for nurses as part of a specific commitment to the RCN. This would create an ‘exclusive’ payment scheme for nurses alone.
While Unite has advised its members to reject the offer, and Unison has advised members to accept the offer, the RCN has not offered members guidance on how to vote in the upcoming ballot. Arrangements for the ballot are yet to be announced.
Likewise, Holly Turner, a child and adolescent mental health nurse in the East of England, says that was she left feeling ‘disappointed and quite frustrated’ with the proposed NHS pay deal.
‘I hoped that the union would recommend to reject because while we were out taking strike action, losing pay; standing out in -5 degrees for 12 hours a day, our union told us that they had red lines drawn for what a minimum offer should be, and this is nowhere near that.
‘The message that we’re getting from the union is that this is the best we are going to get, but in December the Government told us that this [4%] was the best we were going to get.’
Ms Turner told Nursing in Practice that she did not know ‘a single nurse’ who was planning to vote in favour of the offer and on social media there has been an outpouring of support for a vote to reject.
Emma Moxham, a community IV therapy nurse in Bath, tweeted that she felt that ‘settling for less is almost admitting defeat’.
While the size of the NHS pay deal has drawn criticism, the inclusion of the separate pay spine for nurses has drawn further ire.
Ms Turner said that she is ‘absolutely opposed’ to the introduction of any separate pay spine. She added: ‘I work in a multidisciplinary team; we see our colleagues struggling every single day of the week. To think we would potentially benefit over our colleagues who are struggling just as much as us is fundamentally wrong.’
Gerry Bolger an RCN member and independent clinical informatics advisor, described the Government’s offer as ‘a divide and conquer approach’.
Mr Bolger also told Nursing in Practice he was concerned the new pay spine might negatively impact nurses, saying he would not support it ‘unless there were guarantees that we would not get below the AfC award’.
However, Unison head of health Sara Gorton called on members of her union to vote in favour of the deal. Saying: ‘If accepted, the offer would boost pay significantly this year and mean a wage increase next year that’s more than the government had budgeted for.
‘This is better than having to wait many more months for the NHS pay review body to make its recommendation.’