Nurses set for intensive talks with government over pay

The Royal College of Nursing (“RCN”) will restart talks with government ministers on 22 February 2023 focused on pay rises. This is after the union halted next week’s planned 48 hour strike throughout England set for 1 March 2023 to 3 March 2023. This planned walkout by RCN members in England was set to be the biggest strike of this winter’s pay dispute, with half of frontline services affected. Health Secretary Stephen Barclay will now sit down with RCN leader Pat Cullen to discuss a compromise deal to end the continued stand-off over pay.

Why are nurses striking?

The talks between RCN and the government are set to focus on next year’s pay rise, which is due to be confirmed in April 2023. Currently, nurses and other NHS staff below the grade of doctor were given an average increase in pay of 4.75% this year. That pay award prompted a wave of strikes by unions representing nurses, ambulance staff and physios, who wanted an above-inflation increase. Currently inflation is at 10.10% in England so that pay award offer fell short of achieving this. However, the Treasury has refused to sanction any revisiting of that award, fearing it would only further fuel inflation. The government has suggested an increase of 3.5% for all NHS staff in its submission to the independent NHS Pay Review Body. However, the final offer could end up being higher. In previous years the independent NHS pay review body has recommended more than the government initially offers, which previously the government has agreed to. This may reoccur in this instance.

What has been said?

Speaking ahead of the talks, RCN leader Ms Pat Cullen said:

“We will put our plans on the table, they can put their plans on the table – but I’m confident that we will come out with a fair pay settlement for our nursing staff.”

Government sources said they were delighted to be back talking again and were determined to reach a “fair and reasonable settlement”.

Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive at NHS Providers has welcomed the news saying:

“The past weeks have seen a worrying escalation of industrial action, which has hit patients hard. This is the glimmer of hope we all needed.”

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