Fuelling action: the NHS mileage scheme and the impact on members
Following latest announcements on the NHS mileage scheme and the rising cost of fuel and living, the Royal College of Midwives’ (RCM) Director of Employment Relations Alice Sorby shares what this will mean for members in England and how the RCM will continue to put pressure on this Government to award members a fair and decent pay deal – one that enables people to live and work suitably.
Last week the Chief Executive of the energy regulator Ofgem announced that the consumer price cap is set to rise to £2,800 in October this year. Inflation has reached a 40-year high of nine percent and, to top it off, Downing Street announced that ministers should take into account the risk of stoking inflation when deciding pay awards for public sector workers.
Firstly, it is not public sector workers who have caused the cost-of-living crisis and they certainly shouldn’t have to pay for it. I think Paul Nowak, the deputy general secretary of the TUC, was right when he said that this is nonsense!
Decent pay is not what pushes up inflation, decent pay puts fuel in cars, food on plates and pays bills. As we wait for a Government announcement on NHS pay after submitting our evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body we are calling on RCM members to join us on Saturday 18 June in Central London to take the Deliver a Decent Deal pay campaign to the streets.
We will continue to tell the Government that midwives and MSWs deserve a decent pay rise. They don’t feel valued by the Government, are exhausted and demoralised not only by the pandemic but by years of pay stagnation, understaffing and under-investment and many are seriously considering leaving the NHS.
For RCM members who work in the community and use their cars for work the cost-of-living crisis has an added dimension. Fuel costs have risen to new record highs with petrol now over 170p a litre, and diesel even more. We know this is having a huge impact, with some members having to subsidise their own travel to deliver care, so, as part of the NHS Staff Council, we have been involved in a series of meetings to try and find a solution to these rising costs.
It is incredibly disappointing that we haven’t been able to reach a national collective agreement to increase mileage reimbursement rates. This is due to no new money being made available for England by the Government. The NHS in Scotland and Wales have reached an agreement to increase reimbursement rates by 5p and some employers in England having taken action locally too, so we know it can be done. We should not have to negotiate with individual employers, but we will, to press home the point that midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs) who drive for work must be properly compensated.
The NHS Staff Council has published guidance to support local discussions to address the impact of the rising cost of fuel and which acknowledges the NHS trade unions formal request for a review of the current travel and motoring cost reimbursement mechanism which is set out in the Agenda for Change Handbook (Section 17 and Annex 12).
With the other NHS trade unions we have produced joint guidance for workplace representatives to help local staff sides make the case to employers and encourage them to increase the reimbursement rates. We will continue to campaign for a national solution as well.
The RCM will keep telling the Government that we cannot afford to lose more staff in maternity services, that we must retain experienced midwives and MSWs and make the NHS an attractive place to want to work. A good start is to pay our members fairly with a decent pay deal but also to make sure our members working in the community are not worse off for doing their jobs!
For RCM activists, here is a briefing with more information about what this means for members.
Join us to amplify this message at the TUC rally on 18 June. Register here.