Consultants’ pay deal highlights ‘galling’ disparity for nurses

NHS pay offer for medical consultants has left nurses feeling more undervalued because it includes pay scale reform that speeds up salary progression – a change nurses were denied

NHS pay offer for medical consultants has left nurses feeling more undervalued because it includes pay scale reform that speeds up salary progression – a change nurses were denied

Photo of striking consultants holding BMA placards saying Fix our pay, retain our doctors, protect the NHS
Consultants on strike Picture: Alamy

A nursing union has criticised a deal between the government and medical unions that will speed up NHS consultants’ pay progression.

Proposed ‘modernisation’ will ensure faster pay scale progression

Today’s agreement could end ongoing pay disputes between the government and consultants. It includes a 4.95% investment in pay for this financial year (2023-24) on top of a 6% pay uplift already awarded.

According to the British Medical Association (BMA), most consultants will get an additional pay rise of up to 12.8% depending on their pay point and there will be an increase in their starting salary. It is expected to be in pay packets from April 2024, backdated to January.

The government has also agreed to ‘modernise’ the core contract for consultants from January 2024. It will reduce the number of pay points from eight to four and ensure consultants reach the top of the pay scale five years sooner than is currently possible, according to the BMA.

New pay progression arrangements will also be introduced based on consultants’ skills, competencies and experience.

Nurses’ demands for similar pay reform were rejected earlier this year

Nurses campaigned for similar reforms in their own dispute with the government earlier this year including a separate pay spine to improve pay progression in the profession, but there was no commitment from ministers to consider this. The RCN was alone in calling for a nurse-specific pay scale, with other health unions opposing the idea.

The RCN said nurses would be ‘appalled’ by today’s announcement after its members were left with the lowest pay rise in the public sector.

RCN chief nurse Nicola Ranger said: ‘The government has shown it has the political will to reform pay for some of the highest earners in the NHS.

‘Nursing staff work closely with consultants and we too have campaigned for years to have quicker progression through the pay scale. This would help recognise nurses’ safety-critical and life-saving skills, and yet many spend most of their career stuck on the same NHS pay band.

‘It’s galling that almost 12 months since nursing staff took the unprecedented decision to strike… the government continues to undervalue our profession.’

‘Galling’ disparity makes more strikes more likely, says RCN

Professor Ranger said today’s announcement makes future nursing strikes more likely.

The college has previously said that many nurses are working at pay bands that fail to match their competencies and responsibilities, hindering their career development and job satisfaction.

A Health Foundation report last year found about 40% of nurses on Agenda for Change contracts are at the top of their pay band and end up peaking more quickly in terms of pay than counterparts in other graduate professions.

The offer to consultants will be put to members of the BMA and the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association. If agreed, strikes by consultants will end.

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