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Josie Irwin: Government’s offer is a leap in the right direction

A rise of 6.5% over three years is not a panacea, but the offer is free of unpalatable demands, so RCN members will be encouraged to accept, says the college’s lead pay negotiator

A rise of 6.5% over three years is not a panacea, but the offer is free of unpalatable demands, so RCN members will be encouraged to accept, says the college’s lead pay negotiator


The Scrap the Cap campaign appears to have paid off. Picture: David Gee

Six months after more than 2,000 RCN members descended on Westminster to ask the government to ‘scrap the cap’, they now stand to benefit from their biggest pay rise in more than ten years.

The RCN’s campaign helped pave the way for Jeremy Hunt to announce in October last year that the pay cap was scrapped and for pay talks to begin. 

Our goal was to see if the money the chancellor said he would make available in return for contract reform could be used to make the pay structure better and fairer, as well as giving staff a meaningful pay rise.

The proposed deal is no magic wand that will instantly resolve the 40,000 vacancies or make up the pay gap with inflation, but it commits significant government cash – £4.2 billion – for NHS staff pay without making any unpalatable demands in return.

For that reason, the RCN will be asking members to vote in favour.

Every NHS staff member stands to gain

The deal is not a panacea but it does represent a huge leap in the right direction for nurses, midwives, healthcare assistants, porters, therapists and other NHS staff.

Every single member of NHS staff stands to gain and quickly too – if they back it, the extra money will be in salaries for the first time in July and backdated to April.

A registered nurse, currently three years into his or her career and earning around £24,500, will be over £6,000 a year better off by 2020.

Their holidays and payments for working unsocial hours remain the same, and the cash increases outstrip current inflation forecasts for the turbulent years ahead.

One important benefit of a three-year deal is that it will provide pay reliability through the Brexit period.

The NHS does not need to find a penny more for pay packets from cutting jobs or services – there is full funding for this deal if our members vote for it. 

Pay levels fell by 14% in real-terms after 2010 and this deal makes up half of the lost ground for some, while closing it entirely for many others.

 

Investment in education

Starting salaries will rise significantly – which should bring more people into university courses that lead to nursing roles – and those already in the NHS will feel less financial pressure to change careers. 

But greater investment in education is also needed if we’re to start training enough nurses.

This progressive pay deal is not only for England. The Treasury is also committed to giving money to the three other nations and the RCN will argue that it must be spent on meaningful pay rises.

‘A registered nurse, currently three years into his or her career and earning around £24,500, will be over £6,000 a year better off by 2020’

It is always a false distinction to separate staff pay from the care patients receive. Poor pay has driven people away from nursing.

Without enough people on wards, in clinics or making home visits, nurses are simply not able to give the kind of care they want to and their patients deserve.

There are 40,000 unfilled NHS nursing jobs in England alone. These will not be filled at the stroke of a Treasury pen but by showing they value staff through this deal, the government has gone some way to turn overworked, disenfranchised, undervalued staff into engaged, valued and therefore productive staff.

For all these reasons the RCN is urging a yes vote when polling opens on 23 April.

Josie Irwin is RCN associate director employment relations and the college’s lead pay negotiator


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