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Your vote is vital

Pat Cullen 31 Mar 2023 Chief Executive and General Secretary

The consultation on a new NHS pay offer for 2023-24 is now open and Pat Cullen urges members in England to engage with the offer in full. 

As we continue to work through the current phase of our pay campaign, it’s my duty as your General Secretary to provide the facts about the new 2023/24 pay offer and revised offer for 2022/23.

I need you to know that this isn’t like other years, when a pay award has been made by government and implemented regardless of the views of union members. You are being offered a cash payment that averages 4%, a further cash payment of 2% and a permanent uplift of 5%. This is on top of the 4% that members have already received on average for the current financial year. But none of this is guaranteed. If members want to make this offer a reality, it needs to be accepted. We’ve fought hard for this and can accept the gains we’ve made so far or risk losing them.  

The decision you took to go on strike - for your patients and your profession - influenced the UK government to open negotiations; let me be completely honest – this significant, historical achievement must not be underplayed and was entirely due to your direct action.

Now, the consultation on this new offer is open and it is more important than ever that we get the strongest mandate from RCN members to direct the next steps of this campaign. The consultation runs until 9am Friday 14 April 2023. The most important thing you can do is support your colleagues to engage with the offer in full. There is one single source for you to read, and to share - the full offer published by NHS Employers.

I’m clear that my next steps are determined solely by you, and we must be ready to escalate if we reject. But it’s important you understand what your vote to reject would mean in practice. If this offer is rejected, I will be ready to apply pressure on the government like never before – but I’ll need you to give even more than you have to date. Repeating what we’ve done so far won’t be enough. We'd need to run longer, continuous strikes with a mandate reaching right across the country – and we’d need to remove derogations.

If accepted, the opportunity to establish a new pay spine for nursing will help to win us the recognition and remuneration we’ve long deserved. Watch this short video to discover more about why we believe the non-pay related measures in the offer will begin to make the essential changes that nursing needs.

Colleagues, I hear you, and I see you. I acknowledge that this pay offer falls short of your true value. Your elected members on RCN Council have considered these factors alongside the offer in full, and on balance recommend that the offer should be accepted. As your General Secretary, I will act on the result of the consultation.

In other news, the latest in a series of political summits took place this week, when members met Deputy Leader of the Green Party and London Assembly Member Zack Polanski to share with him their priorities for nursing. The conversations focused on worries about the lack of affordable childcare for nurses, better access to quality food in the workplace and support for internationally educated nurses.

This week we opened a consultative ballot for members working for Four Seasons Health Care/brighterkind to vote on the proposed 2023-24 pay offer. The ballot closes at midday on 27 April, so if you’re an eligible member, please cast your vote as soon as possible. Today marks the annual Trans Day of Visibility. You can learn how making small steps such as understanding personal pronouns can help you to make your trans and non-binary patients and colleagues feel safe and respected.

In Scotland, this week, Former Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care Humza Yousaf was successfully appointed new SNP leader following a vote by the party’s members. We have written to the new First Minister and Cabinet Secretary Michael Matheson MSP welcoming them into their new roles while reminding them of the need to prioritise the work of the Agenda for Change review in Scotland and Ministerial Nursing and Midwifery Taskforce. We expect them to make good on the promises made during the recent NHS pay negotiations. 

In Wales, the Welsh Government has come back into negotiations with RCN Wales and the other health unions and progress is being made. RCN Wales hosted an event, ‘From Student Nurse to Registered Nurse’, in the Senedd on Tuesday. The event was attended by RCN student members from across Wales, studying a range of nursing degrees in Welsh Universities and the Open University. The successful event attracted Members of the Senedd from every political party, and Welsh Government Ministers. RCN student members championed the future of the profession, and advocated to Members of the Senedd the importance of financial support for student nurses and the responsibilities of the Welsh Government for continuing to commission nursing education. 

The RCN Nursing Awards are a wonderful way to shine a light on the impactful work carried out by nursing staff all year round. Discover more about these exciting awards on our website.  

We are just a few weeks away from Congress 2023, which will be a great opportunity for us to meet and continue to explore the journey we’re on. Whether you’re a student member, a nursing support worker, registered nurse or other role, work in a non-NHS setting or in the NHS, you will find something new at Congress in Brighton from 14-18 May. Book your place and discover more about how to make the most of Congress 2023 by visiting our website. 

I am an advocate of free speech and I will uphold everyone’s right to engage in honest, open dialogue to work through challenging situations and find constructive ways of moving forward. I and many of you use social media as a place for sharing information, opinion and ideas in a respectful way. Our Respect Charter, which sets out our commitment to working together, is a useful resource to help support and protect everyone. 


Pat Cullen

Pat Cullen

General Secretary and Chief Executive

Pat has worked at the RCN since 2016. Before being appointed General Secretary and Chief Executive, Pat was Director of RCN Northern Ireland from May 2019 to April 2021.

Page last updated - 29/08/2023