Nursing staff at two key unions will begin voting today on the government’s latest NHS pay offer for England which was secured following strikes by clinicians.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and Unison have launched their consultations and are both advising their members to vote to accept the proposed deal.
Other health unions will begin their ballots over the next couple of weeks.
“Whatever the members decide, we will build on the last few months of campaigning for fair pay and recognition”
The offer, negotiated between unions and the government, would provide Agenda for Change (AfC) staff in the English NHS with an extra one-off payment for 2022-23 as well as a pay deal for 2023-24.
The size of the lump sum for 2022-23 would increase incrementally going up the bands, ranging from £1,655 (8.2%) for those on band 1 to £3,789 (3.5%) for staff at the top of band 9.
The bonus would be non-consolidated, meaning it would not be permanently added to salaries, and would be in addition to the average 4.75% consolidated boost already implemented for 2022-23.
The government is also offering a consolidated increase for 2023-24 of 5% for all except the lowest paid staff who would get 10.4%.
The changes mean a nurse in the middle of band 6 would see their salary permanently increase by 9.3% over two years, from £34,172 in 2021-22 to £37,350 in 2023-24, and they would get a £2,061 (5.8%) one-off lump sum.
A number of non-pay commitments are also included in the latest offer, including action to reduce violence against NHS staff and to improve support for new registrants.
The government also pledged to ask NHS England to review existing arrangements for ensuring health services are sufficiently staffed, which could lead to safe nurse staffing legislation being introduced like it has been in other UK countries.
The deal will only be implemented if it backed by enough union members during the ballots.
The offer that RCN members will vote on includes a proposal that was made specifically to the college, to explore introducing a new pay spine exclusively for nursing staff.
However, the pay spine proposal is not part of the official pay offer and will not be included in the consultation that will go out to members of the other unions.
RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said: “Nursing staff have fought proudly for their profession and patients alike in recent months.
“Our membership has never been stronger and their determination has led to this new offer.”
She urged members to look at the offer in full and find out what it meant for them before voting.
“Whatever the members decide, we will build on the last few months of campaigning for fair pay and recognition,” said Ms Cullen.
Unison head of health Sara Gorton said it was the strike action of health workers that led to pay talks being secured.
“Following days of tough negotiations, there’s now an offer to consider,” she added.
“It’s more than ministers ever wanted to invest in pay this year or next, though not as much as health workers deserve”
“It’s more than ministers ever wanted to invest in pay this year or next, though not as much as health workers deserve.”
She argued that the proposed deal was the best that could be achieved through negotiation and warned that, if it was rejected, the offer of an extra lump sum for 2022-23 would likely disappear.
“Rejecting the offer would see the union press ahead with further ballots and strikes,” added Ms Gorton.
“Our judgement is that there’s more on the table now than health workers would get from the lengthy pay review body process.
“But health workers must look at what the offer means for them and make their own decision.”
Both the RCN and Unison had campaigned for an NHS pay rise that was higher than the rate of inflation.
Inflation in the year to February 2023 was 10.4% according to the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) measure, and 13.8% according to the Retail Price Index (RPI) measure.
Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay has today confirmed that funding for the deal would come from partly from new money and partly from “reprioritising existing budgets”.
However, he claimed that there would be “no impact to frontline services or quality of care as a result of this offer”.
“This week, nurses, ambulance crews, physiotherapists and other non-medical NHS staff will begin to vote in trade union ballots on the government’s pay offer – this is a hugely positive step after weeks of constructive talks,” added Mr Barclay.
“This fair and balanced offer recognises the vital role these hardworking NHS staff play, while protecting our commitment to halve inflation – and I urge union members to accept our offer.”