RCN says patients at risk unless pay offer is extended beyond NHS

Patients could be harmed if the pay offer is not extended beyond the NHS into primary and social care services, the RCN says

Janet Davies addresses the RCN congress in Belfast on Sunday.
Picture: John Houlihan

Patients could be harmed if the pay offer to NHS staff is not extended beyond the NHS into primary and social care services, the RCN warns.

RCN general secretary Janet Davies insists on the need to find additional funding in a letter to health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt.

She warns that if action is not taken there is a risk of nurses being drawn away from vital services because of pay and conditions. ‘I recognise that the budget for such a shift is not readily available,’ she says in the letter.

Dangerous imbalance

‘However, I do believe that without this additional funding we will see a dangerous imbalance of the workforce, which will significantly harm patients of non-NHS services.’

News of the letter came as Ms Davies addressed RCN congress in Belfast today. In a keynote speech she told congress: ‘For too long, social care has been seen as the poor relation.

‘The chronic underfunding has led to employers driving down costs and failing to recognise the knowledge and skills required to care for the most vulnerable members of our society.’

Poor pay affecting staff turnover

She said many of those working in health and social care receive less than the real living wage ­– which is £8.75 per hour outside of London and £10.20 within the capital – and suffer poor working conditions.

‘It's unsurprising that care staff turnover is high when the minimum wage is all they are offered,’ she said.

‘The real living wage should be paid as an absolute minimum and employers must work with us to bring stability to the sector.

‘We believe the time has come to establish new arrangements to negotiate for all nurses and care assistants providing publicly funded care but not directly employed by the NHS.’

New council proposed

This could be in the form of a new council, the RCN has said, to negotiate pay for all nurses and care workers employed by charities, the private sector, general practice, social care and arms-length bodies.

The college believes it could work similarly to the NHS Council – with representatives of trade unions, the government and employers.

Currently, pay is often negotiated by individual employers or federations.

The NHS pay deal, which has been recommended to members in England by the RCN and the majority of other health trade unions, is set to be discussed at congress this week.

Even more challenging

A consultation was launched at the end of March to discover members’ appetite for accepting the deal.

Pay deals for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are likely to follow after a settlement is agreed in England, because of the funding formula.

In her letter to the minister, Ms Davies says nurses outside of the NHS feel disenfranchised, adding: ‘With an average turnover of over 30%, recruitment and retention of nursing and care staff is even more challenging in the social care sector than in the NHS. It is of note that more patient care is delivered in the social care sector than in NHS hospitals.’

The Department of Health and Social Care has been contacted for comment.

Delegates at RCN congress on the opening day on Sunday.
Picture: John Houlihan

Further information

In other news

This is a free article for registered users

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this? You can register for free access.