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RCN calls for pay deal to be extended to nursing staff in all sectors providing NHS services

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The Royal College of Nursing has written to the government calling for the pay proposals currently being consulted on by NHS staff to be extended to those working in social care, the private sector and primary care.

The RCN has written to health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt calling on him to consider extending the deal to all nurses providing NHS services, regardless of their employer.

“I urge you to consider how to address the pay of all nurses and health care assistants providing NHS services”

Janet Davies

It warned that the deal must be extended beyond staff directly employed by the health service under the Agenda for Change contract in order to avoid a “dangerous imbalance” between sectors that was harming patients.

The deal, revealed by negotiators on 21 March, would mean at least a 6.5% increase for most NHS staff over three years, plus incremental hikes for some, if subsequently accepted by unions. Unions are currently consulting with members on whether or not to accept the proposals.

In her letter to the health secretary, RCN chief executive and general secretary Janet Davies highlighted that the social care sector delivered more patient care than NHS hospitals.

She urged additional funding to be invested in pay for the sector in order to “level the playing field” and to avoid people being “drawn away” from where they were needed.

The RCN leader said that improving terms and conditions for all nursing staff employed by contractors, but delivering publicly-funded services, would help employers to address recruitment and retention problems and improve standards.

“Our members already feel disenfranchised when transferred out of NHS employment”

Janet Davies

To achieve this ambition, Ms Davies called for a new and separate staff council to be established in England to negotiate for all nursing staff not directly employed by an NHS organisation.

It would take a similar form to the current NHS council, made up of government, employers and trade unions, she suggested.

She highlighted that nursing staff “delivering NHS services but not employed by NHS organisations complain that they endure poorer working conditions and loss of career and education opportunities”.

She also noted than an average turnover of over 30% in social care and said recruitment and retention of staff was even more challenging in that sector than the NHS.

In the letter to Mr Hunt, Ms Davies stated: “I urge you to consider how to address the pay of all nurses and health care assistants providing NHS services, whoever their employer, so that a gap in pay does not result in workers being drawn away from primary, community and social care services.

“This would include those employed by social enterprises, general practice, social care, arms-length bodies, independent and charitable providers,” she said.

“I recognise that budget for such a shift is not readily available, however, I do believe that without this additional funding, we will see a dangerous imbalance of the workforce, which will significantly harm patients of non-NHS services,” she added.

“It’s unsurprising that care staff turnover is high when the minimum wage is all they are offered”

Janet Davies

The college leader will also raise the issue in her keynote speech to RCN Congress today, arguing that social care has been seen “as the poor relation” of healthcare for “too long”.

She will say: “Chronic underfunding has led to employers driving down costs and failing to recognise the knowledge and skills required to care for the most vulnerable members of our society. This is as true for registered nurses as it is for care workers.

“Many of you who work in health and social care for independent sector employers do not earn the same as your equivalents in the NHS,” she will say. “The real Living Wage is an issue and working conditions can be poor.

“It’s unsurprising that care staff turnover is high when the minimum wage is all they are offered. The real living wage should be paid as an absolute minimum and employers must work with us to bring stability to the sector,” she will say.

Ms Davies will state: “We believe the time has come to establish new arrangements to negotiate for all nurses and care assistants providing publicly-funded care but not directly employed by the NHS.

“If integrated health and care is going to succeed, we must lift up the pay, terms and conditions of nurses and care assistants working beyond the National Health Service,” she will add.

“We welcome any moves that will see them paid more for the important work that they do”

Billy Davis

Billy Davis, public affairs and policy manager at the learning disability charity Hft, said: “The RCN is right to argue for the NHS pay deal to be extended to those working in social care.

“Our staff our invaluable to delivering the high quality person-centred support that enables some of the most vulnerable adults in society to live the best life possible, and we welcome any moves that will see them paid more for the important work that they do,” he said.

“However, with local authorities being the main commissioner of services in most areas, and with many providers already on a financial knife edge, the RCN’s proposals will only work if increases in wages are matched with additional government funding for local authorities to commission social care,” he added.

Extracts from the letter from Janet Davies to Jeremy Hunt:

“I urge you to consider how to address the pay of all nurses and health care assistants providing NHS services, whoever their employer, so that a gap in pay does not result in workers being drawn away from primary, community and social care services.

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Janet Davies

”This would include those employed by social enterprises, general practice, social care, arms-length bodies, independent and charitable providers. I recognise that budget for such a shift is not readily available, however, I do believe that without this additional funding, we will see a dangerous imbalance of the workforce, which will significantly harm patients of non-NHS services.

“Ring-fenced funding to improve the pay, terms and conditions of all nurses and healthcare support workers employed by contractors delivering NHS services would help employers address the significant recruitment and retention problems and ultimately, to deliver better patient care.

“Our members already feel disenfranchised when transferred out of NHS employment, especially when still working alongside their directly employed NHS colleagues. Many of our members delivering NHS services but not employed by NHS organisations complain that they endure poorer working conditions, loss of career and education opportunities, less clinical leadership and have concerns about maintaining safe and effect best practice.

“To facilitate a more integrated way in which we look at the pay of all nurses and health care staff, we recommend the establishment of a new and separate national staff council, negotiating for all nurses and care assistants in health and social care who are not directly employed by an NHS organisation.

Jeremy hunt new website

Jeremy hunt new website

Jeremy Hunt

A new inclusive sector council would provide a mechanism to improve workforce planning, recruitment, retention, staff engagement, employment skills, standards of care and productivity across independent health and social care.

A staff council would also facilitate future pay discussions for staff in this sector to take place in an effective manner; engaging all parties, including the government, employers and trade representatives and trade unions in ensuring that there is a level playing field on pay and conditions for all providers and nursing staff working in this diverse sector.

“With an average turnover of over 30%, recruitment and retention of nursing and care staff is even more challenging in the social care sector than in the NHS. It is of note that more patient care is delivered in the social care sector than in NHS hospitals. A new inclusive sector council would provide a mechanism to improve the range of workforce issues across independent health and social care.”

 

 

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