Next government urged to hold talks on nurses’ pay

A pay rise could be delayed until later this year, the RCN warned.

Members of the Royal College of Nursing union on the picket line outside Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham
Members of the Royal College of Nursing union on the picket line outside Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham (Jacob King/PA)

The next government is being urged to hold talks on nurses’ pay immediately after the election to avoid a worsening delay in a wage rise.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) warned of a six-month delay to this year’s NHS pay increase if negotiations are not held in the weeks after the election.

The pay award could be delayed until parliament sits again in September, reaching bank accounts only from November, according to the RCN.

Professor Nicola Ranger, the RCN’s acting general secretary, made the call in her keynote speech at the college’s annual congress in Newport, south Wales, on Monday.

The RCN published its election manifesto with a number of recommendations, including a “substantial” pay rise for nursing staff.

It also wants an end to patients being treated in corridors, safety-critical staffing ratios, changes to immigration law to allow families to remain united and protections for staff raising concerns.

The NHS Pay Review Body had been expected to report to the Department of Health and Social Care by the end of May.

RCN members in the NHS in England are still formally in dispute over pay, terms and conditions since last year, when they mounted a campaign of industrial action.

They have not been balloted for strike action in the last 12 months.

​Ms Ranger said: “Ministers must negotiate through the summer to get a deal done quickly. NHS workers deserve a fair award and it is unfair to keep them guessing.

“Whoever the prime minister and health secretary will be, can meet and negotiate.

“Long delays and disappointing awards would fail to move the debate on from the last two years.”

Dr Adrian Boyle, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “I hope these awful examples highlighted by the RCN make the impact they should on politicians and policymakers.

“As shocking as they are, treating patients in corridors, cupboards and carparks is the daily reality our members, and their colleagues, face every time they go to work.

“This shameful situation is one of the most visible indicators of a system under huge pressure and not functioning as it should.

“The problems are all fixable, and one thing which would make an immediate and significant difference, is increasing the number of permanent, staffed ward beds.

“The next government must prioritise these things immediately. Only then will we see an end to this disgraceful, dehumanising and dangerous situation.”

Deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery said: “Settling public sector pay awards for 2024/25 must be an urgent priority for the next government.

“The NHS has been waiting for an announcement since April.

“Staff, particularly those in lower pay bands, are feeling the pinch while trusts are unable to properly plan for the year ahead.”