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More nurses to receive government-funded ‘Covid bonus’

Thousands of nurses and other healthcare staff who were previously denied the one-off payment promised in the most recent pay deal will now receive the money, the government has announced.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced today that it had put forward additional funding for the lump sum and had also relaxed the rules so that more employers were eligible for funding for the payments.

“Waiting for 12 months added insult to injury and the department must learn never to repeat this”

Patricia Marquis

Community and sexual health nurses are among the 27,000 healthcare staff working in non-NHS organisations delivering NHS health and social care that are set to receive the money in the coming months.

Following pay negotiations last year, over one million NHS staff on Agenda for Change (AfC) contracts, including nurses, received a one-off payment of at least £1,655 alongside a 5% pay rise.

This bonus was in part designed to recognise the additional pressure that had been put on staff as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and as such has been labelled by some as a “Covid bonus”.

Initially the lump sum was only available to staff directly employed by NHS organisations, as set out in Annex 1 of the AfC contract.

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This meant that employers including non-profit, social enterprise and primary care organisations were unable to pay staff the bonus because DHSC had excluded them from being eligible for the funding.

Then, in November last year, the government launched a scheme which would provide these non-NHS organisations with funding to cover the costs of the one-off payments.

Employers had to prove that they had been negatively financially impacted by the pay deal and that their staff were employed on dynamically linked AfC contracts.

However, in DHSC’s latest announcement, it confirmed that it had relaxed the financial hardship requirement to ensure that more organisations can access the funding.

The department said that all organisations had now been informed of whether they were eligible and that payments would be provided in the coming months.

Health and social care secretary Victoria Atkins said: “I hugely value the hard work of all our healthcare staff, and those working in non-NHS organisations offer vital support to patients.

“I want to ensure that eligible staff receive these payments, which is why we chose to deliver this funding and why we have taken the decision to relax the financial eligibility criteria employers must meet.

“It will ensure that hardworking staff and the organisations they work for can fully benefit from the NHS pay deal.”

Health unions had been pushing back against the government’s original decision to not fund the one-off payment for nurses working in non-NHS organisations but still delivering NHS health and social care services.

The Royal College of Nursing director for England, Patricia Marquis, said the announcement today was “a huge leap forward”.

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She said: “We will ask for assurance that the financial amounts are worth the same.

“Nursing staff providing publicly funded care, on whatever contracts, must be paid this award.

“Waiting for 12 months added insult to injury and the department must learn never to repeat this.”

One group set to benefit from the changes is more than 300 hospital staff at Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust.

The staff are employed by private contractor Mitie and had previously taken strike action over the company’s refusal to honour the one-off payment.

Unison, who represented the striking workers, said that Mitie had argued that it could not afford to cover the cost.

However, further strike action has now been called off as Mitie has been given funding from the government for the pay award.

Unison West Midlands regional organiser, Ollie Hopkins, said this was a “victory for the hundreds of low-paid health workers employed by Mitie in Dudley”.

He said: “Workers took the tough decision to make a stand and show their strength of feeling.

“The high-profile strike action created pressure that focused the minds of Mitie executives and has ended the dispute.”

Mr Hopkins confirmed that Unison had called off further action, and urged Mitie to “get this money into the pockets of its workers immediately”.

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