The Royal College of Nursing Scotland director has described ongoing pay discussions with the government as “meaningful” and “detailed”, however has assured the college will continue to “use the pressure” of its mandate to achieve the best possible outcome for its members.
In an interview with Nursing Times, Colin Poolman said while conversations regarding the 2022-23 pay deal were not yet concluded, the situation was “progressing”.
This comes as strike action in the country was once again paused last month amid fresh proposals from the government there, which included accelerated negotiations on the 2023-24 pay offer and an additional one-off payment for staff.
However, the RCN has said previously that members would still take to the picket line if they did not see an improvement by the end of February.
Mr Poolman confirmed that negotiations for the 2023-24 NHS Agenda for Change pay offer were also under way and that the government was aware of the deadline.
“We have a time that discussions must be concluded by and the government are aware that there is a clear mandate from our members to take action if we have to,” he said.
The details of the latest offer from the government are now being explored in depth, including the promise to conduct a full review of the Agenda for Change framework in Scotland.
Mr Poolman said these details were “crucial” to resolving the dispute and that “detailed discussions” were now taking place into what a review into Agenda for Change could look like.
“We’ve got discussions ongoing and I would say they’re meaningful, so we are progressing”
Other commitments outlined in the latest offer include an additional payment for NHS staff, equivalent to three calendar months value of the difference between the 2022-23 and agreed 2023-24 pay offers.
This is on top of the most recent pay offer from the Scottish Government which saw nurses given an average 7.5% pay uplift for 2022-23, equating in pay rises ranging from £2,205 to £2,751, depending on pay band.
At the time the RCN, GMB and Royal College of Midwives all rejected the offer and they all currently have mandates to strike in the country.
Mr Poolman told Nursing Times the union will “use the pressure of [its] mandate” to get the best possible outcome “for its members and for patients”.
He added: “The government know they’re on a timescale, they are committed to discussions to conclude by February.
“We’ve got discussions ongoing and I would say they’re meaningful, so we are progressing.”
These comments come in the same week that MSPs in Scotland voted to back the Scottish Government Budget 2023-24 at its first reading.
Under these plans the deputy first minister John Swinney laid out “a different, more progressive path for Scotland” which included £13bn being put towards supporting NHS boards in the country.
Additionally the budget has committed over £9bn for the health and social care workforce, on top of the £515m which is being used to pay for the latest pay deal for nurses.
Ahead of the first reading RCN Scotland called on the Scottish Government to lay out plans to specifically tackle the nursing workforce crisis.
The college said it was looking to the budget to set out a clear investment to “acknowledge and address the nursing staffing crisis in a sustainable way”.
It added that it also wanted to see the government develop a nursing retention strategy and grow the domestic workforce.
Mr Poolman noted that while nursing has not yet been named specifically in the budget, the RCN “needs more detail” on the pledges that have been made so far.
He said: “We see that there is a commitment to building the workforce but the detail is vague.
“We are concerned about the current crisis in nursing and the government need to take positive steps towards addressing that, not only in the short term but also long term.”
The Scottish Government were contacted for comment.