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'Protect national terms and conditions'


The RCN’s officer for Essex Mike Kavanagh on why nurses should look carefully at the benefits of their NHS employer

The lifeblood of any organisation is its staff and, like blood, healthy employees need proper care. Southend University Hospital Foundation Trust has shown that moving away from national terms and conditions is not in the best interest of its staff and, in refusing to match the current national pay award for staff earning less than £21,000, has shown a complete lack of care.

The trust defended its position by stating that 95% of staff voted to move away from national terms and conditions yet failed to mention that this was before Agenda for Change was introduced.

The recent news story “Trust holds back pay rise from lowest band staff” on generated a number of comments with a common theme of reducing the pay of staff on band 8 and 9. However, these comments failed to take into account that by not having a pay rise for two years, the value of pay for most staff, including senior staff, has already gone down in real terms.

“We have reached a point in history where NHS staff need to carefully assess the benefits of each employer to ensure they know how much they will get paid and how secure their future will be”

Employees who earn less than £21,000 are now being denied an increase of just over 1% paid to most low paid staff in the rest of the NHS.

Comments were also made about the fact that staff did not complain when they were paid more than staff on national terms. But newly employed staff could take several years to receive the same pay and associated terms and conditions as staff on national terms. The trust’s “Gainshare” scheme is one of the few bonus schemes in the NHS but, like any other similar scheme, it is not guaranteed and it is based upon the performance of the trust as a whole rather than individual performance.

The future of pay and associated terms and conditions is under increasing threat. Foundation trusts have significant autonomy to move away from national terms and conditions, and NHS trusts that become Social Enterprises cannot offer new staff access to the NHS pension scheme.

We have reached a point in history where NHS staff need to carefully assess the benefits of each employer in order to ensure that they know how much they will get paid and how secure their future will be.

National terms and conditions are designed to be fair and consistent and, while there will continue to be arguments about local variations in the cost of living, they have been designed to meet the needs of the service while still offering a competitive salary.

Mike Kavanagh is Royal College of Nursing officer for Essex


Readers' comments (2)

  • Whilst I agree that the way things are at the moment has forced us to look at individual terms very, very carefully.

    However, there are two major points I would like to make, the first is that terms and conditions don't seem to mean anything anyway, with trusts able to change contracts and conditions as they choose, demoting band 7s, making people reapply for their own jobs, etc etc etc.

    Secondly, we shouldn't HAVE to check individual terms and conditions, we shouldn't HAVE to be careful what trust we work for or have to scrutinise or fight for our terms and conditions. We should have them by right. We should automatically know, as KEY personnel, as staff Nurses who are vital components of this and any country's healthcare system, that once we qualify and get a job, we are guaranteed a fair, decent wage and fair terms and conditions. A system which denies some of the most valuable workers in the country those things is insane and illogical, as it does not ensure that a vital workforce will stay to benefit the country. The bankers used the infamous phrase 'we need to pay top dollar to attract and keep the best people with the right skills' (or words to that effect). Does that only apply to (b)ankers? Should that not apply to much more valuable personnel like us too?

    It is about damn time we fought and DEMANDED the pay, terms and conditions that we deserve.

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  • No we should not have to do this, the RCN should have this nationally agreed no matter who is in the driving seat, without the navigator, the driver is stuffed.
    As a nurses we are working in a sick environment, run by sick managers, led by a sick government, totally dysfunctional, where is the therapeutic relationship between the NHS exec and the NHS employees and the Ministry of Health?
    Well the mercenaries are in now and all they want is to be paid, let us hope is is not due to deaths of the suffering patient

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