Nurses threaten more strikes despite NHS staff getting 5 per cent pay rise after health unions back deal

2 May 2023, 14:15 | Updated: 2 May 2023, 23:19

Nurses have threatened to strike, despite the government pay deal
Nurses have threatened to strike, despite the government pay deal. Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

Nurses are threatening more strikes over understaffing, despite NHS staff in England getting a 5% pay rise after health unions backed a government deal meant to end industrial action.

Health unions representing the majority of NHS workers have recommended that a revised pay offer made by the Government should be implemented - with the government saying staff will receive the increased pay from this summer, possibly as early as next month.

The pay deal, first proposed in March, was signed off today at a meeting between the government and the 14 health unions representing all NHS staff - despite opposition from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and Unite.

The RCN will carry out another ballot for strike action across the whole of the UK, rather than workplace-by-workplace.

RCN chief Pat Cullen said that "the RCN remains in formal dispute with the government and the NHS over pay levels" despite the agreement.

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"I entirely respect those, in our membership and that of other unions, who voted to accept," she said.

"However, that was not the prevailing view of nursing staff. Nursing is the largest part of the NHS workforce and they require an offer that matches their true value.

"We understand the government’s intention now to pay the award to the NHS workforce as a whole. Though the pay offer was not enough for our members, I have repeatedly said that the government’s approach should be to build upon it and that remains our position."

Ms Cullen said that the RCN would ballot 280,000 members in England’s NHS over further strike action to be held between June and December 2023."

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Meanwhile Unite secretary-general Sharon Graham said that the deal did not solve "huge issues surrounding understaffing". She added: "We will be escalating strike action".

Health and Social Secretary Steve Barclay said: “I’m pleased the NHS Staff Council has voted to accept our pay offer, demonstrating that a majority of NHS staff agree this is a fair and reasonable deal.

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“It is now my intention to implement this for all staff on the Agenda for Change contract and where some unions may choose to remain in dispute, we hope their members – many of whom voted to accept this offer – will recognise this as a fair outcome that carries the support of their colleagues and decide it is time to bring industrial action to an end.  

"We will continue to engage constructively with unions on workforce changes to ensure the NHS is the best place to work for staff, patients and taxpayers."

Nurses marching in protest this week
Nurses marching in protest this week. Picture: Getty

Sara Gorton, head of health at Unison, has confirmed she hopes to have an increased pay in nurse's pay packets in June. Speaking following the agreement on Tuesday, she said that the "majority" had agreed to implement the pay offer "as soon as possible".

She also confirmed Steve Barclay is "moving to implement" the pay increase.

A separate pay dispute with junior doctor members of the British Medical Association (BMA) is also ongoing, with Mr Barclay and union leaders meeting on Tuesday evening. Both parties declined to comment on the outcome of the talks.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, urged ministers to release the money for NHS staff as soon as possible and to ensure that local NHS leaders do not have to cover the increased cost from their existing budgets.

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