Outsourced nurses pursue legal challenge over Covid bonus

A judicial review is being sought to demand the UK Government pays all nurses a so-called Covid-19 bonus, from which certain healthcare staff were excluded.

Social Enterprise UK, which represents, among others, independent organisations that deliver NHS-commissioned health services, began the legal process this week to demand all nurses are paid the bonus.

“Leaving them out of the NHS pay deal is completely unfair”

Peter Holbrook

This bonus, a lump sum worth at least £1,655 depending on Agenda for Change banding, was offered to all NHS staff as part of the pay agreement between striking health unions and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) this summer.

It was, in part, designed to recognise the extra pressure on staff as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the patient backlogs caused.

However, many staff who perform NHS duties – and who worked across the Covid-19 emergency period – were excluded from the government-funded bonus because they were not directly employed by the NHS.

Any nurse employed by a community interest company (CIC), social enterprise, a general practice, or anyone else not specified under Annex 1 of the Agenda for Change handbook was not elligible.

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Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay said at the time that the exclusion of this body of staff was “always part of the deal” agreed on by the unions.

Now, Peter Holbrook, Social Enterprise UK chief executive, has announced this week that his organisation has begun the process of applying for a judicial review after unsuccessful attempts to lobby the DHSC to amend this part of the deal.

“Social enterprises are a crucial part of the NHS family, delivering over a billion pounds of services and employing many thousands of staff while reinvesting any profits in communities, so leaving them out of the NHS pay deal is completely unfair,” said Mr Holbrook.

“We raised this injustice with the Department of Health and Social Care in early 2023, and we still expect them to intervene – as they did previously in 2018 – before the staff and patients of these vital services are adversely affected.”

When a judicial review is called, a judge will analyse a decision taken by a public body – such as a government department – to decide if it was lawful.

However, the Social Enterprise UK chief executive said the process was a “painful waiting game”.

He added: “[DHSC] has repeatedly missed its own deadlines to resolve the issue, but we hope it ultimately delivers what the health secretary promised all those months ago.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said, in response to the review being called: “We hugely value the work of all our healthcare staff and have given more than one million workers a pay rise of 5% backdated to April, worth at least £1,065, as well as two one-off payments.

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“It was agreed between all bodies present at negotiations, including unions, that the one-off payments applied to staff directly employed by NHS organisations, with all eligible Agenda for Change staff receiving the 2023-24 consolidated pay award.

“We are currently considering our position regarding the funding of the one-off payments for 2022-23 for staff employed by non-NHS organisations.”

The spokesperson added that the department would not comment on ongoing legal proceedings.

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