Nurses cut out of COVID bonus: ministers face legal battle
Court challenge looms after NHS bank staff and nurses working for social enterprises were told they were not eligible for one-off payment
The government could face a court challenge for excluding some nurses from a one-off ‘COVID backlog bonus’.
Thousands of nurses delivering NHS services in England missed out on the £1,655-£3,789 payment negotiated in the 2022-23 pay award, because they are not directly employed by NHS trusts.
The pay offer in principle, published in March, stated ‘all staff’ on Agenda for Change (AfC) contracts would receive the bonus, but the government later qualified this as only covering those working on AfC contracts who are directly employed by NHS trusts.
Ministers claim the criteria were agreed during negotiations, but the RCN disputes this.
It means bank nurses and those working for social enterprises and other non-profit organisations providing NHS services are ineligible. Among them is Maria Rudrum, a health visitor and clinical services manager at Central Surrey Health (CSH) who provided face-to-face services for children throughout the pandemic lockdowns. She said the decision was demoralising.
‘Social enterprises are a crucial part of the NHS family… so leaving them out of the NHS pay deal is completely unfair’
Peter Holbrook, chief executive, Social Enterprises UK
‘It’s not good when you know your colleagues are really struggling to make ends meet with rent, petrol and bills, so it was a kick in the teeth really,’ Ms Rudrum told Nursing Standard.
‘I made quite a point of when I moved jobs to make sure I would still be on Agenda for Change but now I learn it doesn’t count. It counts when we are out providing services… but we don’t count here.’
CSH chief nurse Sarajane Poole added: ‘To be told we were going to have this payment and then have it taken away is very difficult. Our staff, like the rest of the health service, have been working in the most challenging conditions in recent memory, and they have gone above and beyond.’
Social Enterprise UK (SEUK), which represents thousands of workers missing out on the payment, has now applied for a judicial review after Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) failed to respond to a letter and a parliamentary petition for the bonus to be funded for all staff on AfC contracts, regardless of employer.
SEUK’s chief executive Peter Holbrook said: ‘Social enterprises are a crucial part of the NHS family… so leaving them out of the NHS pay deal is completely unfair.
‘The ongoing judicial review is a painful waiting game, in which the department has repeatedly missed its own deadlines to resolve the issue, but we hope it ultimately delivers what the health secretary promised all those months ago.’
The government has until 3 November to respond to SEUK, in line with judicial review rules, SEUK confirmed.
A spokesperson for DHSC said: ‘We are considering our position regarding the funding of the one-off payments for 2022/23 for staff employed by non-NHS organisations.’
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