§ 47. Mr. Andrew MacKay
To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he last met representatives of the Royal College of Nursing; and what matters were discussed.
§ Mr. Kenneth Clarke
I met representatives of the Royal College of Nursing on 5 December.
We agreed that we should redouble our efforts to explain the regrading exercise and to publicise the very substantial pay increases that the overwhelming majority of nurses and midwives are now receiving. As a result. for the first time the nursing profession will have the proper career structure for which the RCN in particular has consistently argued.
Our discussion concentrated on the working of the appeals procedure, which we both agreed was the outstanding issue. We regretted that the process had been clogged up by the number of spurious claims that nurses and midwives had unfortunately been encouraged to submit. These were clearly delaying progress for those few with genuine grievances. In order to help those nurses and midwives, we agreed that in future health authorities should set up a sifting process at officer level which would enable them to identify and correct any obvious errors in grading in advance of a full appeal hearing. In addition, I have asked RHA chairmen to see that the sifting process is completed, if at all possible, by the end of January. General managers will also be asked to make sure that the operation of the appeals procedure is regarded as a management priority.
The RCN joined us in condemning industrial action and stressed its commitment to putting patients first.