The pay system is used across the NHS and sometimes mirrored by private sector employers.
Today, nurses are demanding an “immediate review” of the Agenda for Change payscales system and have questioned if it is still “fit for purpose” given how drastically the profession has changed.
A resolution approved by members at the Royal College of Nursing‘s (RCN) annual Congress calls for a total review of the pay system used across the NHS and mirrored by some private-sector employers.
Chair of the RCN’s Trade Union Committee, Graham Revie, who seconded the review, explained, “Agenda for change is not just about wages; it is a structure that agrees our terms and conditions.
“What annual leave we get, paid maternity leave, paternity leave, career breaks etc.” Mr Revie concluded, “This is a debate we need to have.”
RCN Council Member Geoff Earl added that the NHSPRB, the independent body that advises the Government on NHS Agenda for Change pay, is not really “independent” and usually makes recommendations in line with Government requests.
The call comes amid a cost of living crisis and ongoing pressure on some nurses who are “paying to work” due to record fuel prices.
A modern graduate profession.
During the debate, members questioned how fairly Agenda for Change pay bands were applied across the NHS and suggested that some roles are banded incorrectly.
It was also suggested that Band 5 is no longer appropriate for a newly qualified nurse, and nurses should qualify on Band 6.
The Agenda for Change system was introduced in December 2004 and have gone relatively unchanged since.
Last year the NHSPRB recommended that the Government review the current pay arrangements for registered nurses as they fail to recognise nursing as a “modern graduate profession”.
The 2021 report states that while nursing pay starts well, it fails to “keep pace with other graduate earnings over the course of a career” and therefore “this raises the question of whether the AfC system fully reflects the professional demands on nurses and their contribution to the NHS.”
It explains, “The nursing profession has evolved and continues to do so and the breadth and depth of the knowledge, training, experience, skills, responsibilities, effort, and working conditions required to fulfil a nursing role have changed.”