A government commitment made to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) to consider introducing a pay spine just for nurses is collectively opposed by the other NHS unions, Nursing Times has been told.
It has also been confirmed that the proposal for a separate nursing pay structure is not part of the official pay offer from the government.
“The establishment of standalone pay spines would endanger the whole harmonised pay structure”
The pay offer affects NHS staff in England who belong to the Agenda for Change (AfC) national pay scheme, which includes all clinicians other than doctors and dentists.
When the government announced the pay offer, it also revealed that it had agreed with the RCN to undertake a piece of work to consider a “separate pay spine for nursing staff exclusively”.
Nursing Times had heard from sources that the idea was not supported by the other unions, some of which also represent nursing staff as well as a variety of other professional groups.
Unions will soon ask their members to vote on whether they accept or reject the offer from the government.
The deal would provide staff with an extra one-off payment for 2022-23 of between £1,655 and £3,789 and a consolidated increase for 2023-24 of 5% for all except the lowest paid staff who would get 10.4%.
The RCN has previously confirmed to Nursing Times that the offer it would be putting out to consultation to its members would include the proposal to explore a dedicated nursing pay spine.
However, the other unions have now made clear that the nursing pay spine work would not feature in their ballots, and stressed that this proposal was completely separate to the official pay offer.
Nursing Times has also been told that the collective position of the NHS unions was that they opposed any move to create a separate pay structure for nurses.
Instead, they wanted to see improvements to the AfC system for all staff currently covered by it.
Unison head of health Sara Gorton, who is also chair of the NHS group of unions and chief negotiator on pay, said: “Over the next few weeks, health unions will be putting the offer to their NHS members in England.
“This doesn’t include the commitment the government made to the RCN to explore the possibility of a distinct nurse pay spine. This is entirely separate to the 2022-23 and 2023-24 offer.”
She added: “All health unions are keen for improvements to the existing pay system.
“But the establishment of standalone pay spines would endanger the whole harmonised pay structure and could lead to localised pay bargaining.”
Separately, one of the unions from the group, the Society of Radiographers (SoR), has warned that it could ballot its members on taking further action to protest the nursing pay spine if it happened.
In a statement released the day after the pay offer was announced, the SoR said: “Ministers and colleague unions can also be certain that if any one profession was granted better pay or terms and conditions than colleagues in another profession at their current equivalent grade then the SoR would likely ballot members to take action to defend common professional recognition across all professions.”
The RCN declined to comment.