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RCN calls for fresh start for NHS nursing pay as consultation opens on separate pay spine

11 Jan 2024

We’ll be collecting members’ views to provide a robust response.

Nursing staff at computer

The UK government has launched a consultation to seek views on the idea of introducing a pay spine specifically for nursing staff working for the NHS in England.

It’s calling for evidence to consider the benefits and challenges of a separate nursing pay spine, and to explore other potential approaches to support the career progression and professional development of nursing staff.

The government committed to doing this during pay negotiations with the RCN in 2023 after we raised concerns about how the Agenda for Change (AfC) pay structure has failed to keep pace with the evolution and complexity of nursing roles.

Responding to the launch of the consultation, RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen said: “The current pay scale turns 20 years old this year and no longer reflects the skills and expertise in nursing today.

“Despite many years of experience, the vast majority of nurses are on the lowest pay bands possible. The current system only rewards people the further away they get from patient care. This approach is poor for patients and works against career progression for a nurse. Automatic pay band progression is afforded to some staff groups and never to nurses – it is unfair and unsustainable. 

“The genuine advance back in 2004 is ailing the profession today – the pay structure has not kept pace with nursing progress. Our workforce is 90% female and a new structure can remove the gender disadvantages at present and dispel completely the idea that nursing is less skilled, women’s work and worthy of low pay and poor treatment.”

Across other equivalent countries, full-time nurses working in hospitals typically earn 20% more compared to full time earnings but, in the UK, nurses working full time make less than the average worker working full time. 

Pat added: “Record unfilled nurse jobs in recent years are a sign of structural problems as well as underinvestment by government. As the largest profession in health and care, nursing staff deserve a fresh place in the NHS and not more years of poor pay rises and no wider reform.”

The consultation is open for 12 weeks and will close at 11:59pm on 4 April. We’re encouraging members to submit their feedback to us so we can respond on their behalf. In the coming days, we’ll supply a form for members to do this.

Find more information on the Department of Health and Social Care website.


Page last updated - 17/01/2024