NURSING STAFF RISK being forced off the road by soaring fuel prices unless the Chancellor takes urgent action in his Spring Statement, says the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).
It is calling for an urgent review of the NHS mileage rates in the wake of the fuel crisis, and for NHS employers across the UK to provide an immediate additional payment.
The RCN fears that patients will be impacted if nurses are unable to carry out frequent home visits – with chronic conditions potentially worsening and complications being missed.
Nursing staff working in the community have told the RCN that the cost of filling up their cars has risen recently by as much as £100 a month. The College is asking the Chancellor and Health Secretary to address the issue and the impact on patient care.
Staff caring for patients in their own homes and other community settings most often use their own vehicle to travel to and from visits, with some driving hundreds of miles a week.
The official trigger for a change in NHS mileage rates is a 20 per cent increase or decrease in motoring or fuel costs over a 12-month average – but it is understood that that threshold has not been reached yet and the RCN says ministers and employers must not delay until further hikes.
Those on NHS Agenda for Change (AfC) contracts, or with AfC mileage allowances in their contracts, can claim 56p per mile for the first 3,500 miles per year and 20p for each additional mile.
But with prices at the pump rising by at least 10 per cent in the last month, nursing staff are being left increasingly out of pocket.
The Chancellor is already under political pressure on the issue. In a debate in the Commons last week, Sunak said he would “bear in mind” the call from a former minister to look at business mileage rates ahead of his Spring Statement.
The College is calling for him to signal his intent to pay nursing staff fairly in Wednesday’s Statement.
RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive, Pat Cullen, said: “The Chancellor needs to urgently help nursing staff hit by the eye watering fuel prices in his Spring Statement. He and the Health Secretary must reassure us that they do not expect nursing staff to subsidise the health service from their own pockets.
“District and community nursing staff who rely on their cars to visit patients are telling us they’re having to pay £100 more on fuel every month, putting an additional strain on their already tight finances. The situation is becoming unsustainable – what will happen if nursing staff can’t afford to fill up their cars? It is patients who will ultimately suffer.
“With many nursing staff already considering leaving the profession, this extra cost and pressure will not do anything to encourage people to stay.”
* Source: Royal College of Nursing