After years of unfair and, frankly, damaging pay restraint that RCN members and staff have fought hard over the past 12 months to overturn, I suspect that the rise of at least three per cent for everyone in 2018/19 – with the increase backdated to April – cannot come soon enough.
In announcing the result of its consultation, the RCN emphasised that securing fair pay for all nursing staff is a battle that’s far from over.
It’s surely a matter of fairness that an equivalent pay award is given to nurses and health care assistants - such as GP practice nursing staff and those working in care homes - who don’t have an NHS employment contract but who do deliver NHS-funded care.
Ensuring fairness and equal pay for work of equal value is an important enough principle, but there’s another big reason why the Government must ensure pay rates across all sectors are comparable – and that’s to prevent the crisis in the supply of nurses moving from one part of the system to another.
On the day before the pay deal announcement I met with a nursing director of an independent sector employer of nursing staff who expressed his concern that if the Government does not give NHS commissioners the money to cover a similar staff pay uplift in their contracts with organisations like his, the services they provide could haemorrhage staff to equivalent jobs that are higher-paid, de-stabilising and potentially damaging patient care.
He said the challenge of planning workforce numbers and offering duly attractive rates of pay was hard enough in an era of cost-cutting and short-term contracting by health care commissioners. Any widening of a pay gap would, he insisted, make things much worse.
So, as far as the NHS pay deal is concerned, the RCN regards it as a starting point, a minimum commitment by the Government for the next three years. If the economic situation worsens or the recruitment and retention crisis in the NHS deepens, we’ll be looking to reopen talks about pay.
At the same time, we’ll be seeking to negotiate better pay for members working outside the NHS or for companies who supply NHS services. We’ve written to the Health Secretary demanding equity for nursing staff who deliver publicly-funded care and we’re pressing for a separate negotiating body, made up of employers and trade unions, to be established to negotiate pay, terms and conditions for all nursing staff not directly employed by an NHS organisation.