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What is Care Plus Group and why does it matter?

Care Plus Group (CPG) is a social enterprise that provides a wide range of health and social care services to people across north Lincolnshire. It was formed in 2011 and employs more than 800 people. But nursing staff working for the organisation are getting a worse deal than those in the NHS. On average they receive £5,000 a year less than their NHS counterparts even though they deliver NHS services. Their terms and conditions are not comparable either. In fact, there are many nurses across the country working for non-NHS organisations who are still fighting for fair pay. The RCN says this is unacceptable – these staff members are as hard-working and committed as those on Agenda for Change contracts.

This all sounds unfair. How have RCN members who work for CPG reacted?

Angrily. In 2021 and 2022, CPG refused to negotiate with the RCN over pay awards and simply imposed increases below inflation. This year, our members had enough. In the summer, when an RCN ballot over strike action was held, more than 90% of those who voted were in favour. Strikes followed – in August, September and most recently, for two days in October. More strikes are planned this month and beyond.

It’s not surprising people are leaving community health services

An RCN member employed by CPG who preferred not to be named said: “More than ever people are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. People are leaving community health services or disregarding it as a career option.”

The member offered this warning about the future if nothing changes: “We help to ease the burden on our already overstretched hospitals. Without health care professionals in the community, patients will suffer and so will their families. Nursing staff treating NHS patients do not deserve to be financially worse off because of where they work.”

Has CPG changed its position since strike action?

In September last year the organisation imposed a pay award of 4% for all staff, backdated to the previous April. It also agreed to raise starting salaries for registered nurses from February this year. Then, following further pressure from trade unions, all CPG staff were given a £150 supermarket voucher. But it’s nowhere near enough.

“Nursing staff are really struggling with the continuing cost-of-living crisis and trying to make ends meet,” says Sarah Dodsworth, regional director for the RCN in Yorkshire and the Humber. “And when you see the difference in pay between the NHS and non-NHS organisations, it’s not surprising that people are leaving community health services.”

So this is more than a local dispute?

Absolutely. We believe that all independent health and social care (IHSC) employers need to have a pay system that is competitive with the NHS. It’s true some pay systems are based on NHS structures, but many are set independently and in some cases are dictated by commissioners’ budgets.

All independent health and social care employers need to have a pay system that is competitive with the NHS

Rates of pay in these organisations are therefore often lower than for comparable NHS roles, with health care assistant salaries commonly set at the national minimum wage or just slightly above. Manx Care, Four Seasons Health Care/brighterkind, the States of Guernsey and the Care Quality Commission are just some of the IHSC organisations where we’ve been supporting members in their fight for fair pay.

And did the strike by members at CPG get a lot of support?

The fact that this time the strike extended over two days, rather than one on previous occasions, is a measure of members’ frustration with the way they are being treated. As part of the latest strike action, they marched through the centre of Grimsby, where CPG is based, drawing support from the community and interest from local media.

How can I show my support?

There’s an RCN petition you can sign that calls on the Humber and North Yorkshire Integrated Care Board to take steps to resolve the situation with CPG. Add your name and help us send the message that enough is enough. Find out more about our fight for fair pay in social care and independent health services.

Further strikes planned

The RCN have issued further strike notices for the following dates for members employed by CPG:

  • 5–9 December
  • 18–23 December
  • 8–13 January 2024
  • 22–24 January 2024

The strikes take place 7am–8am inclusive (day and night shifts) for the duration.

For more information

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