Advice and development

A student's guide to the proposed NHS pay deal

The student representative for RCN's trade union committee considers the implications of the proposed pay deal 

After the RCN’s Scrap the Cap campaign last summer, chancellor Philip Hammond pledged to fund a pay rise for NHS nursing staff when he delivered his autumn budget in November. 


Picture: iStock

Pay restraint has left many nurses struggling financially, but this signalled the start of negotiations to close the gap on nursing pay. 

As the student representative on the trade union committee for the RCN, I was involved in talks while the pay deal was under negotiation. Since the offer became public, I have heard a lot of different opinions and have been asked a lot of questions about it. 

There is no blank cheque, and this offer is not ideal, but it is the best pay deal from the government in eight years, with money coming straight from the Treasury rather than NHS budgets. 

This offer, which is for England only, is also much better than we originally thought due to the current political and economic climate. 

Living wage for all NHS staff

The RCN worked hard to ensure that unsocial hours were protected and that no annual leave was lost. One of the huge positives from the deal is that all NHS staff will now be paid the living wage. 

Staff will progress to the top of their pay bands quicker due to the number of pay increments being reduced and overlaps in banding being removed. With a minimum of 6.5% over three years, everyone gets a pay increase, some more than others. 

So how does the pay deal affect students? It is positive in that newly qualified nurses will see a change in their starting salaries, going from £22,128 to £23,023 under the new deal, bringing it in line with other graduate professions. 

Reaching the top of band 5 and a £28,764 salary currently takes about seven years. With the new deal, it would only take four years and you will earn £30,615 when you get there. 

Impact of Brexit

The nursing profession currently has about 40,000 vacancies, and although the full impact of Brexit is yet to be felt, latest figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) show that 3,962 European Union (EU) nurses and midwives left the UK register between April 2017 and March this year. 

The figures, published at the end of April, show that only 805 EU nurses joined the register between April 2017 and March 2018, compared with 6,382 the year before – a decline of 87%.

Recruitment to nursing courses has also fallen drastically since the bursary was scrapped – figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), published last month, show applications for nursing courses in England have fallen by one third since 2016. 

This new deal will give nursing staff recognition for their work and help improve retention so there are more experienced staff on shift to support newly qualified nurses. Recruitment will also hopefully pick up again as the deal attracts people to the profession. 

Voting on the pay deal

This new pay deal could go a long way to empower the nursing profession, and give trade unions the power to negotiate in the future if the deal is agreed by members. It has been endorsed by the RCN's trade union committee, and is now out for member consultation until June 5. 

As the deal proposes changes to current NHS contracts of employment, and not future contracts, the majority of students will not be able to vote as we cannot vote on something that doesn’t apply to us right now, in the same way that RCN members in the independent sector won’t be able to vote. 

However, student members of the RCN who are currently employed by the NHS in England on Agenda for Change contracts will be able to take part. 

Update your records

To vote, your employer and place of work must be recorded on your RCN records. To update them, call the membership team on 0345 772 6100 or email membership@rcn.org.uk with your employer, place of work and membership number. 

I know it is frustrating for students who cannot vote, especially those due to graduate shortly. But your voice is still important and we need you to spread the word about the deal, speak to other students about it and encourage colleagues who are on Agenda for Change contracts to vote. 

There are also many pay events taking place around the country where RCN officers will be on hand to talk you through the deal and answer any questions. 

The RCN online consultation on the pay deal closes on Tuesday June 5. Click here to find out more. 


Katharine Youngs is an adult nursing student at the University of Leeds and an RCN student member and trade union committee member. 

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