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RCN demands new negotiations following NHS consultant pay offer

28 Nov 2023

We remain in dispute with the UK government regarding NHS nursing pay in England with more than 100,000 members voting for further strike action in our last ballot.

RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen has written to new Health Secretary Victoria Atkins following the government’s new pay offer to NHS consultants.

In the strongly worded letter, Pat expresses her frustration and “extreme disappointment” that the government has been unwilling to engage in further negotiations about nursing pay, despite the RCN remaining in formal dispute regarding this year’s pay deal. 

She stresses that more than 100,000 RCN members in England voted in favour of continued strike action just a few months ago in a clear indication that the profession continues to feel undervalued. Though it’s welcome that the government has engaged in meaningful negotiations with other trade unions, the announcement about consultant pay will have done nothing to quell that, Pat writes. 

“The government has now shown it has the political will to negotiate on pay reform for some of the highest earners in the NHS in contrast to our members who received the lowest pay rise in the public sector.”

Given that inflation remains well above the government’s 2% target, the 5% pay award for NHS nursing staff in England appears “increasingly inadequate” and has been “consistently eclipsed” by the pay awards for other public sector workers and now this offer to consultants.

Pat also points to the perceived inequity of consultant pay being reformed whilst many nurses start and end their career on Agenda for Change Band 5 - the lowest band of all regulated professionals in the NHS.

“It is time for nurses and nursing to be treated with the respect they deserve and for nursing pay also to be reformed,” Pat stresses. “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.”  

During previous pay negotiations, the RCN was provided with a commitment to explore a separate nursing pay spine but progressing that commitment hasn’t received the urgency it needs. 

In light of the new health secretary committing to “getting round the table” to “see a fair and reasonable solution” to NHS strikes, Pat has requested an urgent meeting to discuss our dispute.

“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,” she writes. 

“Every slight discourages another individual from choosing nursing as a profession and puts more patients at risk. The NHS requires the stability of a nursing foundation and now more than ever, this must be resolved.

“We want to be part of the collective effort to rebuild our NHS. It is your responsibility to act now. Nursing staff deserve better.”  

Page last updated - 30/11/2023