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Is the Nurses' Strike Over? RCN To Recommend New Pay Offer to Members

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has announced that they have received a new pay offer from NHS England, which it says it will recommend to members in a forthcoming vote. If accepted, this would bring an end to industrial action by nurses, 3 months after the strikes began.

The offer from the Government, which was made to all healthcare staff striking, including nurses, paramedics, 999 call handlers, midwives, security guards, and cleaners, includes a one-off payment for the 2022-23 financial year worth between £1655 and £3789, and a 5% consolidated pay increase for the 2023-24 financial year, according to the RCN.

New Pay Structure and Policy Framework on Safe Staffing

The deal also includes a new pay structure for nursing staff, which would come into force for 2024-2025. In addition, the Government had made a commitment – for the first time – to a national evidence-based policy framework on safe staffing, focusing on registered nurses, that "will draw on legislation in the rest of the UK and internationally", according to the RCN.

RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen sees the deal as a win for nurses.

"The Government was forced into these negotiations and to reopen the pay award as a result of the historic pressure from nursing staff. Members took the hardest of decisions to go on strike and I believe they have been vindicated today," she said.

"As well as the additional money now, we have made real progress with the Government on safe staffing measures, a new pay structure for nursing, support for newly qualified staff, and pensions too. 

"It is not a panacea, but it is real tangible progress and the RCN's member leaders are asking fellow nursing staff to support what our negotiations have secured."

If Members Accept the Deal: 'No More Strikes'

The RCN's elected council met Thursday morning and decided that it will recommend that members vote to accept the offer in a forthcoming consultation. If members accept it, the dispute with Government and the NHS over pay will formally end. 

Negotiations with the RCN started 3 weeks ago, and all NHS unions took part in the last 10 days of talks. Aside from the RCN, UNISON, GMB, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, and the British Dietetic Association will also recommend the offer to their members in consultations that will be held over the coming weeks, according to the Department of Health and Social Care. Strike action will continue to be paused while they are consulted.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said of the deal: "It is right that we reward our hardworking NHS staff, who showed bravery and dedication throughout the pandemic and continue to make phenomenal progress to tackle waiting lists. Importantly this deal is also affordable for the taxpayer and continues to deliver on my promise to halve inflation.

"We have taken a reasonable approach throughout and this offer is good for NHS staff, it’s good for the taxpayer, and most importantly it is good news for patients whose care will no longer be disrupted by strike action."

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: "This offer will give nurses, paramedics, physiotherapists and other non-medical staff a fair pay rise while protecting our commitment to halve inflation."

Next Up: Junior Doctors

Responding to news that a pay deal has been reached in principle between the Government and unions, the Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Sir Julian Hartley said: "This is hugely positive development after months of strike action, which has seen NHS staff out on picket lines and widespread disruption to patient care, with tens of thousands of appointments postponed.

"We are very encouraged by the guarantee from the Government that there will be no impact on frontline services or the quality of care that patients receive as a result of this offer. We take this to mean that the deal is fully funded rather than relying on raids on NHS budgets, taking money away from key services. This is crucial to the success of the deal.

"It is also good to see that as a result of this deal all staff will be lifted above the real living wage, something we have long called for.

"We now need to see today's progress matched by urgent movement on talks between the Government and unions representing junior doctors. As trust leaders assess the full extent of the disruption caused by this week's 72-hour walkout, their message is loud and clear: Redouble your efforts to find a way through. No more strikes."