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Nurses demand new negotiations after pay deal ‘eclipsed’ by consultants offer

Published on: 29 Nov 2023

The government must re-open pay negotiations with nurses in the wake of its pay offer to consultants, the general secretary and chief executive of the Royal College of Nurses has told the health secretary.

The RCN reacted angrily to the deal with doctors’ unions announced yesterday, in which the government has agreed to overhaul pay scales, resulting in significant further salary growth for many consultants. 

The Department of Health and Social Care said it represented additional investment of 3.5 per cent this year, and that the pay of some consultants would increase by a further 10.6 per cent. Immediately after the announcement, the RCN warned that its members were more likely to strike as a result of the gap between the offer and the most recent pay deal for nurses.

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, agreed after several months of strikes by RCN members and other AfC unions. A majority of unions voted to accept the deal but the RCN has remained in dispute.

In a letter to health secretary Victoria Atkins, Pat Cullen expressed her “extreme disappointment” that the government was unwilling to engage in further negotiations about nursing pay.

In her letter, Ms Cullen reminds the health secretary that the RCN membership in England voted in favour of continued strike earlier this year and that was a clear indication that the profession continues to feel undervalued.  

The letter makes the point that inflation remains well above the government’s 2 per cent target. It claims this makes the 5 per cent pay award for NHS nursing staff in England “increasingly inadequate” and claims it has been “consistently eclipsed” by the pay awards for other public sector workers, including the offer to consultants.

Ms Cullen writes: “It is time for nurses and nursing to be treated with the respect they deserve and for nursing pay also to be reformed. Nursing is one of the most diverse and female-dominated professions within the public sector, and the injustice of nursing pay is also a gender issue. The greatest pay inequality in the NHS relates to nursing. This must be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

The RCN has also raised concerns that the nurses’ pay spine, which the previous health secretary committed to exploring, has not received the attention it deserves.

“The government should invest less time and attention in its attempt to impose draconian anti-strike laws on nursing staff and get back around the table and discuss nursing pay,” said Ms Cullen.