NHS pay offer for nurses: questions to consider before you vote

With a new offer on the table for Agenda for Change staff in England following strike action, and union ballots opening, do you know which way you’ll vote?

 Nurses on the picket line during recent strike action, with a man at the front holding a sign that reads ‘Honk is you support fair pay for nursing’
Picture: John Houlihan

The dispute over pay and safe staffing has galvanised nursing staff into a show of strength never seen before in the profession.

The size and energy of the strikes, often falling on freezing cold winter days, attracted huge attention and public support, and forced the government to reconsider its position and invite unions representing Agenda for Change (AfC) staff to the negotiating table, starting with the RCN.

Do you know already whether you’ll vote to accept or reject the offer?

Now a new offer has been made to nursing and other AfC staff in England and, just like with the ballot for industrial action, it’s time for nurses to make a decision.

Some of you will instinctively know which way to vote, whereas others will be less clear and want to mull over the details.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before you vote in the ballot, which for RCN members opens on 28 March at 9am and closes at the same time on 14 April.

What is an acceptable offer – for you and for the profession?

First, the obvious: is the pay offer acceptable to you? It has risen from the original offer of an average 4% for 2022-23 with the addition of a payment of between £1,891 (for registered nurses at the bottom of band 5) and £3,789 (for the most senior staff, at the top of band 9), but that payment is non-consolidated, so won’t increase your yearly salary. Then there’s a 5% consolidated increase for 2023-24, up from the government’s original recommended rise of 3.5%.

Second, what does it mean for the profession, and the potential for recruitment and retention? Together, do the payment and the pay rise stack up against inflation and the profession’s demands for recognition of the value of nursing? Or is it, as some suggest, another de facto pay cut?

And how do the non-pay elements of the offer weigh up in your mind? There’s the commitment to look at safe staffing, which is something the Westminster government has long resisted, in contrast to the approach in Scotland and Wales. Does this make what’s on the table in terms of pay more palatable?

Then there’s the promise of a separate pay spine for nursing. Is this an opportunity to recognise highly skilled professionals whose vital role was showcased to the world during the pandemic? Or is a potentially divisive move that could break nursing staff away from their AfC colleagues in multidisciplinary teams?

Dispute has always been about more than pay

At the centre of this dispute is nurses’ passion for the NHS and concern for their patients. So the question is not as simple as pay – it is will this offer in the round protect the future of the health service, nursing and patients.

The decision is yours. You have a strong voice – use it.

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