For some weeks the SoR have been aware that the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has been arguing for the introduction of a separate single pay spine for nurses.
This has been discussed collectively by the other 13 Agenda for Change (AfC) unions. Accordingly, the SoR is confident in asserting that this is something that all of the other AfC unions are committed to opposing.
When the SoR received details of the NHS pay offer we were unaware of a letter from the health secretary to the RCN regarding the RCN’s proposal. Having now seen the letter, which is published on the RCN’s website, it is evident that this is not part of any formal “side offer” from the government.
It is clear that the letter, however it is spun by the RCN, merely commits Department of Health officials to discuss the RCN proposal for such a pay spine with them. It is not something that forms part of the official 2023-24 pay offer made to all unions and is not something that there is a public commitment to achieving from anyone outside the RCN.
The SoR has long recognised and called for joint discussions to review and potentially reform AfC. Any pay system that is 20 years old will need review. The work of some professions, such as radiography, has changed enormously in this time. However, this must be done collectively in a way that recognises all health professionals. To do otherwise would divide the NHS workforce and further destabilise the NHS at a time when the need is for greater security and cohesion.
The SoR is completely opposed to any unilateral reform around any single profession. We recognise the need to address the workforce crisis in nursing but this is not unique.
There is also a staffing crisis in radiography. Our members are a keystone to bridging the gap between current outcomes and future health aspirations for patients. Nine out 10 patients will be supported by a radiographer at some stage of their treatment pathway and no professionals are more critical to addressing backlogs than our members. Any move that prioritises nurses over radiographers or any other allied health profession will only have wider negative outcomes for the NHS.
SoR members can therefore work certain in the knowledge that we will make these points whenever and wherever necessary. Ministers and colleague unions can also be certain that if any one profession was granted better pay or terms and conditions than colleagues in another profession at their current equivalent grade then the SoR would likely ballot members to take action to defend common professional recognition across all professions.
All members are reminded that we are currently considering the pay offer and will be consulting our Representatives and our UK Council over the coming days. Following this we will decide what, if any, recommendation to make on the offer.
We will then and consult all members in England on the offer through April. Members in Wales and Northern Ireland will be consulted separately depending upon developments in their devolved nations.