Nurses' pay static as GP profits soar

While GP profits have soared since the new GMS contract took effect in 2004, nurses' pay has remained largely static, Healthcare Republic can reveal.

Practices’ profit per partner has risen by 30 per cent or more under the new contract.

But many nurses have received no pay rise at all, or pay rises well below inflation in the same period.

Almost three-quarters of 171 nurses who responded to a question on pay in a survey by Independent Nurse magazine said their pay had increased by less than 5 per cent since 2004. Just over 19 per cent said their pay was unchanged or had decreased.

A total of 146 respondents to the pay question were either practice nurses or nurse practitioners based in general practice.

Nurse practitioners were slightly more likely than practice nurses to say their salary had increased by more than 5 per cent since 2004. Pay was up 5 per cent or more for 32.3 per cent of nurse practitioners, compared to just 24 per cent of practice nurses.

But practice nurses were more likely to receive a bonus for QOF work (35.8 per cent) – than nurse practitio-ners (29.3 per cent).

Nurses who did receive bonuses often received them only in the first year of the new GP contract. Many were calculated informally or handed out ‘on a whim’ by partners.

Alarmingly, despite the poor rate of income growth for practice-based nurses, they fared better than respon-dents to the survey from other nursing disciplines. A total of 65 per cent of nurses from areas including health visiting, school nursing, district nursing and specialist nursing reported pay rises of less than 2.5 per cent.

RCN nurse practitioner association chair Jenny Aston said that low pay rises for nurses in general practice were unfair against the backdrop of increasing profits.

She said: ‘Doctors perceive they didn’t do as well last year. QOF was harder to achieve, and although I don’t think doctors went short, on paper it didn’t look as if they got as much.’

She said practices had used this to justify stopping bonuses or refusing to award staff pay rises in some cases, but admitted that ‘there is a wide variation across the country’.

A key factor that had restricted opportunities for nurses to win pay rises was the lack of funding for training in the current pay-freeze NHS climate, Ms Aston said.

She pointed out that if nurses had been unable to find funding for extra training, it could be harder for them to argue for a pay rise from their employers.

But she warned that if practices want staff to be happy, they would have to reward them appropriately. If not, nurses may vote with their feet, she said.

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