The country’s NHS trusts are set to increase mileage allowance payments to thousands of healthcare staff who use their own cars for work.
The news follows the Government’s refusal to increase AMAP (approved mileage allowance payment) rates, which are used by many employers to reimburse so-called grey fleet car users.
While healthcare staff, including nurses, appear set to receive an increase in mileage allowance payments through an in-house agreement that is currently being finalised, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is still stepping up pressure to have AMAP rates upped.
It has written for a second time to the chancellor Alistair Darling, after its members complained that rising fuel prices are forcing them to subsidise the NHS in order to do their jobs.
“Everyone knows that fuel prices have been on the rise for months with no sign of slowing down.
"Nurses who work in the community have no choice but to use a vehicle to reach patients in their own homes and it’s unacceptable that many of them are facing the prospect of subsidising the NHS,” said Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN.
“I have written to the chancellor to urge him to make the necessary changes to mileage allowances and tax relief so that nurses are fairly compensated for using their cars for work.”
Now NHS Employers - the umbrella organisation representing all NHS trusts employers in England, which negotiates workforce issues with unions and organisations such as the RCN – has confirmed it is close to announcing the decision of a seven-month long review of in-house mileage allowance payments.
Any changes to these in-house payments will affect up to 350,000 NHS staff.
“In response to continuing increases in fuel costs we have received a number of enquiries from employers about mileage allowances,” said a spokesman.
“The increases in the cost of fuel are a matter of concern.
"As a result, the whole system of mileage and other travel allowances is currently being reviewed.”
Late last year, a joint sub-group of the NHS Staff Council reported that NHS mileage allowances have not been revised upwards since 2000 and “have fallen some way behind traditional comparators”.
This is a similar situation to AMAP rates, which are still set at 40p for the first 10,000 miles and 25p for every mile thereafter.
As a result, the NHS Employers issued interim guidance on mileage allowances to all NHS organisations in England.
It recommended that in addition to an annual lump sum payment, ‘regular user’ mileage rate for staff travelling up to 9,000 miles per year on business, in cars up to 1,000cc should be increased from 27 pence per mile to 29.7ppm and 17.8ppm for any distance over 9,000 miles.
For those in cars up to 1,500cc the increase was 3.4ppl and for distances over 9,000 miles the payments rose to 20.1ppm.
Now the staff council, which was due to announce its recommendations in March, is expected to confirm a permanent rate increase in July.
“We need to satisfy ourselves with a rate which ensures people are fairly reimbursed,” said an NHS Employers spokesman.