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They’ve given an inch but we need a mile

Extending the pay deal to non-NHS nurses on Agenda for Change is a long-overdue step forward that GP employers must now take too, writes Marilyn Eveleigh

There are more than 23,000 nurses working in general practices in the UK. The majority have found their posts through word of mouth or local adverts, rather than online at NHS Jobs, where few practice nurse jobs are advertised. This reflects the status of practice nurses as non-NHS employees who exclusively serve NHS patients. The majority of practice nurses are employed by surgeries – private businesses where nursing pay is determined by the individual practice.   

As a consequence, practice nurses were not included in the recent three-year 6.5% pay deal, and there was no obligation for GP employers to match that deal. 

I lost no time in outlining how unfair this was, and urged clinical commissioning group nurse leaders to use their influence to include practice nurses in the pay increase.

Leading the cause, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and other unions petitioned the Government for the award to be paid to staff providing NHS services in primary care, social care and the private sector. It worked, and in July the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) allocated £12m for this workforce. This means an increase of 3% this year, a 1.7% increase and a 1.1% lump sum in April 2019, and 1.7% from April 2020. For NHS employees, this will be backdated to April 2018 and the funds paid in August salaries; for non-NHS employees, the payment schedule will be agreed later.

Do practice nurses know this? Do all GP employers and their practice managers realise this is a positive message?  

The DHSC states that the pay deal will apply to organisations who provide NHS services, where ‘their existing and new staff’ are employed on the Agenda for Change (AfC) contract of terms and conditions agreed by the NHS Staff Council. This will be a well-deserved increase for hardworking practice nurses – but only if they are on an AfC contract. Even if they have one, I have a niggling doubt that some practices have adopted the AfC pay scales but not the full AfC terms and conditions. 

One of the many questions that need to be answered is will this deal be a barrier for a surgery to receive Government funding for their practice nurses? 

This calls for a discussion with your practice manager. With this deal the Government has recognised the vital and pivotal role practice nurses play in healthcare – GP employers now need to acknowledge and match that.