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Lack of pay rises among GP practice nurses sparks call for Government to find cash to deliver uplifts

by Megan Ford
12 February 2024

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Almost half of general practice nursing staff in England – 44% – did not receive a pay rise last year, a survey by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has revealed.

And three quarters (77%) didn’t receive the full 6% increase promised by the Government last Summer.

But the nursing union has not blamed GP practices for the lack of a pay increase, calling instead on the Government to urgently provide additional funding so the promised 6% increase can be honoured.

The RCN has written to ministers to demand action and has submitted evidence to the spring budget on the issue.

The survey of almost 1,500 nursing staff employed by GP practices also found that just one in five (20%) received the full 6% pay award. However, of those, 19% were not given back pay to April 2023.

In addition, almost two thirds (64%) said they were concerned their employers were not being transparent about their pay award for 2023/24.

The RCN has said the failure to fully fund last year’s award, backdated to April 2023, has left staff feeling undervalued, with some saying they’re considering leaving the profession.

It said it was ‘seeking a change’ to the funding model used to uplift the pay of employed general practice staff.

It was confirmed last Autumn that the global sum given to GP practices had been increased to help fund the 6% pay rise.

However, because the global sum allocates funding per patients, based on various factors including demographics, it became clear that some practices would not receive enough additional funding to afford the rise, while others would get more than they needed.

In light of this, concerns over the discrepancies between the pay, terms and conditions of general practice nurses compared with those working in the NHS have ramped up in recent months, with nurses describing the situation as ‘inherently unfair’ and ‘disappointing’.

Patricia Marquis, RCN England director, said: ‘The government should be valuing the role nursing staff in primary care play, instead of leaving them short-changed.

‘They keep communities healthy, detecting disease early, reducing hospital admissions, and preventing more patients from ending up at A&E.’

She added: ‘If the government was serious about addressing waiting lists, it would immediately provide ring-fenced money to fund the full 6% pay increase it promised general practice nursing staff.’

Dr David Wrigley, deputy chair of BMA’s GP committee for England, said: ‘Nurses are the backbone of general practice and hugely valued by GPs and their patients. But just like GPs, nurses have been let down and undermined by a lack of government financial support for their roles and this new data paints a worrying picture about how the government is addressing the current situation.

‘General practitioners and nursing staff want to serve the needs of their patients both more effectively and efficiently, but practices simply do not have the funds to help bring about change, and that comes down to a lack of government financial support. Ultimately, if the Government wants to get serious about improving patient care, it needs to get serious about investing properly in general practice, and that starts with valuing staff for the work they do.’

The RCN and BMA recently pledged to work together to ensure ‘fully funded fairer terms’ for nurses working in general practice .

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said it was down to practices to decide on pay for staff.

They said: ‘We hugely value and appreciate the vital work carried out by general practice nurses.

‘The government accepted the Doctors’ and Dentists’ Review Body’s recommendation on salaried general practice staff pay and increased the 2023/24 GP contract to provide funding for them to receive a 6% pay rise. It is for GP practices to determine employee pay.’

The news follows the announcement that general practice nurses (GPNs) are set to be included within the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS), under changes to the GP contract 2024/25.

The nursing profession has been calling for a widening of ARRS to include general practice nurses amid serious concerns that otherwise it could lead to the demise of the role. Ms Marquis said adding GPNs to ARRS must see nursing pay ringfenced and equal to NHS terms and conditions ‘as a minimum’.

The RCN surveyed members working in general practices in England between 23 November 2023 and 15 January 2024.

A version of this story was first published on our sister publication, Nursing in Practice