‘Appalled’ nurses ‘more likely to strike’ after doctors deal, warns RCN

Published on: 27 Nov 2023

The Royal College of Nursing has reacted furiously to news that medical consultants have been offered a new pay deal for 2023-24, saying nurses are now more likely to strike.

Most NHS nurses received a 5 per cent pay uplift in 2023-24 as well as non-consolidated one-off payments, under an Agenda for Change pay deal struck in the spring. That followed several months of strikes by RCN members and other AfC unions.

The government had already given consultants a 6 per cent uplift for 2023-24, as recommended by their pay review body.

And in a deal with British Medical Association leaders announced today – which will be subject to a vote of members – the government has agreed to overhaul pay scales, resulting in significant further pay growth for many consultants.

Government said it represented additional investment of 3.5 per cent this year, and consultants’ salary will increase by a further 10.6 per cent in some cases.

In response, Royal College of Nursing chief nurse Nicola Ranger said: “Today’s news will ignite our members’ fury further, making nursing strikes more likely in the future.”

The dispute a year ago was particularly difficult for the RCN, which initially sought to negotiate with goverment separately from other AfC unions. Its members then voted against the deal struck with the AfC staffside negotiators – despite the RCN leadership endorsing it – but also failed to vote to give a mandate for further strikes.

RCN also received separate commitments to explore a separate pay scale for nurses, but there has been no further update on these. 

Professor Ranger also said: “Nursing staff will be appalled by this announcement and where it leaves them.

“The government has shown it has the political will to reform pay for some of the highest earners in the NHS – while our members are left with the lowest pay rise in the public sector.

“Nursing staff work closely with consultants, and we too have campaigned for years to have quicker progression through the pay scale. This would help recognise nurses’ safety-critical and lifesaving skills, and yet many spend most of their career stuck on the same NHS pay band.

“It’s galling that almost 12 months since nursing staff took the unprecedented decision to strike, our pay dispute remains unresolved, and the government continues to undervalue our profession.”

Meanwhile, Unison acting head of health Helga Pile said: “It’s vital next year’s pay rise for Agenda for Change staff is sorted out in good time, so any increase can be in employees’ bank accounts when it’s due next April. 

“But before that happens, the Westminster government must act to enable negotiations on a pay rise for NHS staff in Northern Ireland for this year. It cannot be right that almost eight months on, health workers there are yet to receive a penny.”