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No end in sight for Lincolnshire community nursing strikes

A fifth round of nursing strikes at a social enterprise in the North East of England is taking place this week, as nurses say they are “disappointed and frustrated” by a lack of negotiations and warn of even more industrial action to come in 2024.

Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) who work for Care Plus Group (CPG), a Grimsby-based organisation which provides NHS community care across Lincolnshire, went on strike from 7am today (Monday, 18 December).

“[CPG] are burying their heads in the sand and hoping that this issue will just go away”
Sarah Dodsworth

They will remain on strike until 8am on Saturday, 23 December and, the RCN has said, may walk out again in the new year if more negotiations are not confirmed soon.

It is the second time this month, and the fifth time this year, that the CPG nurses have walked out.

The nurses have been in dispute with CPG since the summer to demand pay parity with their NHS equivalents.

Sarah Dodsworth, regional director for RCN Yorkshire and the Humber, claimed some CPG nursing staff earned as much as £5,000 a year less than their NHS counterparts and had worse terms and conditions.

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“This is just unacceptable,” she said.

“These staff members are as hard-working and committed as those working in the NHS on Agenda for Change contracts.

“Given that inflation remains well above the government’s 2% target, their pay appears increasingly inadequate.”

Ms Dodsworth reiterated a statement she made in the autumn about staff leaving community nursing or “disregarding it as a career option altogether” due to the pay in some non-NHS employers delivering these services.

She continued: “CPG staff are committed, hard-working professionals providing skilled, personalised, and compassionate care just like their NHS counterparts.

“They help to ease the burden on our already overstretched hospitals and don’t deserve to be financially worse off because of where they work.”

The RCN representative added her disappointment and frustration about a lack of negotiations on nursing pay, alleging that CPG had “refused to engage”.

“They continue to ignore their own staff and the RCN,” she added.

“They are burying their heads in the sand and hoping that this issue will just go away.”

The nurses, many of whom work in the community or as primary care staff, will remain on strike throughout the week and are set to stage a protest on Wednesday (20 December) to further raise the profile of their industrial dispute.

They will march through Grimsby to rally support from the local population, the RCN said.

When approached by Nursing Times, CPG said it had nothing further to add from its previous statement on the strikes.

In that statement, a spokesperson for the organisation said it recognised the impact of the cost-of-living crisis, and that it was continuing to try to offer “competitive salaries” for nurses.

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The spokesperson said: “CPG is an independent social business, not part of the NHS, and any pay increases need to be made considering our financial sustainability.

“We continue to work closely with Social Enterprise UK who are advocating nationally and with government for parity for social enterprises in relation to pay.”

They said the strikes were affecting “a small percentage of nursing provision within CPG and we are working hard to minimise disruption and ensuring safe delivery of care to patients across affected times”.

They added CPG “regularly” reviewed its finances to look for ways to improve pay in the future for nursing staff.

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