Nurses’ COVID bonus: minister stands firm on excluding key groups
Bank staff among thousands told they will not automatically get one-off payment, as Steve Barclay insists health unions approved plan as part of NHS pay deal
Excluding thousands of nurses from a ‘COVID backlog bonus’ was always part of the NHS pay deal, health and social care secretary Steve Barclay insists.
Speaking to journalists ahead of a meeting with front-line nurses on 19 June, Mr Barclay repeated his position it is for individual employers to decide whether to pay some nurses the bonus, and that this was part of the deal health unions agreed.
Two-tier system ‘will anger nurses’
The government has faced calls to extend the one-off payment to all nurses on Agenda for Change (AfC) contracts working in England’s health service, not just those directly employed by NHS organisations. As things stand thousands of nurses including bank and social enterprise staff will miss out on the bonus, despite having worked to deliver essential services during the pandemic.
Health leaders warned excluding these groups could create a two-tier system and push more nurses to quit. They said many employers simply cannot afford to pay the uplift. But secretary of state insists this was agreed with the unions.
He said: ‘Those were the terms throughout. It’s not that anything has changed since the agreement has been reached. It was something the unions agreed to and, indeed in the case of a number of unions, recommended it to members.’
RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said Mr Barclay’s comments signalled the importance of voting in the latest strike ballot.
She said: ‘Nursing staff will be angered to hear that instead on delivering on fair pay for all of those working in the NHS, Steve Barclay seems intent on creating a two-tier system where thousands will miss out.
‘We must not allow this to stand as we again ask our members to vote on strike action.’
Ministers want to work with the RCN on matters other than pay
Mr Barclay said he was keen to work with the RCN on a number of issues including workforce, well-being and staff absence, but ruled out further discussions on pay.
When asked by Nursing Standard how long he was prepared to see strikes continue, Mr Barclay said: ‘We want to work with the RCN. I negotiated the deal with Pat Cullen, she was very closely involved in it and recommended it to her members. But within that deal, there were a number of things in addition to pay which require us to work closely together.
‘Pat herself said that the deal was our final offer. That was recognised by the RCN at the time and accepted by the NHS Staff Council. We have to be conscious that under AfC, a band 5 or 6 nurse cannot be paid differently to a band 5 or 6 midwife, so we need to think about the AfC agreement as a whole.’
RCN members are currently voting on a new six-month strike mandate. Voting closes on 23 June and a result is expected next week.
In other news