Up to 28,000 nurses in England will vote on whether to accept the government’s NHS pay offer from today.
The vote comes after six days of strikes since December in the long-running dispute over pay. Pay talks were held between the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and health ministers in late February and early this month, and the government subsequently made a pay offer on 16 March.
The proposed deal involves two one-off payments for the current financial year and affects each worker differently, depending on what pay band and pay point they are on.
The combined payments are worth between £1,655 and £3,789 - dependent on salary band - and are additional to increases already made this financial year. These are referred to as non-consolidated amounts as they do not count towards members’ pensions and are not added to their future pay packet.
There will also be a permanent 5% pay rise on all pay points for 2023-24 and the union said a series of commitments and plans to improve pay, terms and conditions over time are part of the offer. These are aimed at trying to help tackle challenges with career and pay progression within the 2024/25 pay year and to improve safe staffing.
RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen urged members to look at the offer in full and said whatever is decided “we will build on the last few months of campaigning for fair pay and recognition”.
Ms Cullen said: “Ministers spent many months ignoring the voice of nursing and they forced us to take extremely difficult strike action before recognising the need to look again at pay in the NHS. Weeks of negotiation resulted in a new offer and it’s only right that we ask our members to vote again and to give their view on the government’s proposal.”
The RCN is recommending its members accept the deal. Members will have until 9am to cast their vote in a ballot open from 28 March until 14 April.
On the proposed deal made on 16 March, she said: “We are urging our members to look at the offer in full. There are several elements, including a commitment to a policy framework for safe staffing and looking at a new pay spine for nursing.
“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.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak insisted that frontline services will “absolutely not” be affected by any final pay deal while Health Secretary Steve Barclay said funding for the agreement would not come at the expense of patients. The offer has already seen planned strikes called off.
Barclay said: “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.
“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.
“I’m working with the Treasury to ensure my department has the money it needs to fully fund this pay offer, which will include additional funding and reprioritising existing budgets. This is on top of the existing funding we have already made available for a pay increase of up to 3.5% in 2023-24.
“I want to be clear – there will be no impact to frontline services or quality of care as a result of this offer.”