Nurses have hit back at the suggestion the RCN should help them negotiate better pay, terms and conditions rather than fighting for a standardised contract.
RCN chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair told Nursing in Practice it was the umbrella-body’s role to help nurses ‘articulate’ their worth.
She said the RCN could decide on ‘blanket’ contract changes but added it was difficult to get a ‘one shoe that fits all because it doesn’t’.
She explained: ‘Actually if you look at every single GP practice, what nurses do might be very variable. For me, one of the places of emphasis has got to be on helping nurses be able to articulate.’
Dame Donna agreed that terms and conditions were too ‘variable’ but cautioned that some practice nurses who ‘earn better’ could see a salary drop if they moved to an Agenda for Change contract. Agenda for Change pay rates are currently reserved for NHS employees.
She added: ‘It’s important to remember that the GP contract is a contract between the government and the GPs, and because they are contract holders, it’s then for nurses to negotiate with the GPs.’
Louise Brady, a clinical development lead in Manchester, acknowledged that GPs might not appreciate being ‘handcuffed’ to paying Agenda for Change wages but told Nursing in Practice the RCN had a negotiating responsibility. She called for ‘at least’ sick pay and maternity pay to be standardised.
‘Fundamentally, the RCN as a professional body should be negotiating occupational sick pay including maternity with the BMA on behalf of their membership,’ she said.
‘The RCN should act now and swiftly to retain this vital workforce.’
Ellen Nicholson, a practice nurse and chair of the RCN GPN Forum, said that practice nurse terms and conditions will remain variable ‘unless you have a standard that GPs are held to’.
She said: ‘You’ve got salaried GPs who are employed by practices who have a standardised contract, which the BMA has put together. If you can do it for salaried GPs, there is pretty much no reason why you can’t do it for the GPNs.’
Robana Hussain-Mills, practice nurse and deputy clinical director at Nottingham City East PCN, agreed that standardised sick pay and maternity pay would be a start.
When Ms Hussain-Mills became pregnant early in her practice nurse career, she was told that she would only receive pay at 90% for six weeks and only receive statutory maternity pay after that.
She said: ‘I burst into tears. None of this was mentioned in my interview. I thought my terms and conditions were NHS.’ She believed nurses on higher wages, who would lose out with an Agenda for Change contract, were the ones ‘really resistant to change’.
Amy*, a practice nurse in Manchester who would prefer to remain anonymous, said nurses need to ‘pressure the government [for nurses to have] NHS terms like salaried GPs’.
She said she has ‘often thought about a move back to secondary care because of the poor terms and conditions’. ‘I’m an experienced and knowledgeable nurse working at a higher and more independent level than a band 5 in an acute environment,’ she continued.
‘Yet I receive statutory sick and maternity pay.’
A Change.org petition started by practice nurses calling for equality with the Agenda for Change pay scale has reached 10,000 signatures.
*Not her real name.