The head of the Royal College of Nursing has said nurses must be “realistic” about salary rises in the near future.
We are watching where vacancies are being left unfilled and we are watching where staff are being made redundant
He said: “Our priority has to be the preservation of frontline clinical services. It would be pointless having a pay award at the expense of services and jobs.”
But he reaffirmed a commitment to fight any attempt to undermine national pay awards and local attempts to downgrade Agenda for Change terms and conditions, telling the auditorium “We have challenged foundation trusts who have tried to dismantle aspects of the national pay structure that we fought so hard to secure.”
He said the RCN had done a good job negotiating rises for its members over recent years saying the promised 2.25% increase promised had been delivered.
“The pay deal has been good for nurses especially when compared to the rest of the public sector, not to mention the private sector where redundancies, pay freezes and pay cuts have been the norm.”
Dr Carter won a round of applause from delegates after saying that if nurses must accept “the reality of the financial situation then so too must our NHS leaders” adding that pay increases “double that of nursing staff “demonstrated very, very poor leadership”.
Later in his afternoon speech he launched ‘Frontline First’ - urging RCN members to report any cuts, inefficiencies or compromises on patient care.
He said: “We are watching where the cuts are being made, we are watching where vacancies are being left unfilled and we are watching where staff are being made redundant and services shut down.
“We’re already building a picture across the UK of where the biggest, deepest and most dangerous cuts are taking place. And this grim picture means that we will be the voice for patients, nurses and the public.”
But he signalled the RCN would not fight every ward or unit closure indiscriminately, as long as there was evidence it would improve patient care.
“Given the huge amount of savings and efficiencies that the NHS may have to make over the next few years, we’re going to have to look again at the way we deliver some of our key services.
“It’s never popular to talk about closing local services or moving healthcare teams from one location to another. But it’s always important to ask the objective question - will this change bring about an improvement to patient care? If the answer to the question is ‘yes’, we have to consider changes, be open-minded about new services and embrace new ways of working.”
The conference continues until Thursday.