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RCN accuses NHS of 'double standards' on pay for nurses and executives


The amount of money the NHS spends on paying its senior managers has accelerated way ahead of that for nursing and midwifery staff, research by the Royal College of Nursing has found. 

The amount spent on executive directors over the last two years has increased by an average of 6.1%, compared to a 1.6% rise in earnings for nurses, midwives or health visitors.

The significant gap between the two layers of staff was revealed on Monday at the RCN’s annual congress in Liverpool.

“The government should do the decent and honourable thing and give nurses a decent wage”

Peter Carter

It gathered the information through freedom of information requests to trusts in England, which it has published in a report titled “All in it together?  The Executive pay bill in England’s NHS”.

The RCN said 50% of trusts had awarded salary increases of at least £5,000 to one or more executive directors. The increases were highest at acute specialist trusts. 

Geographically, the biggest jump in executive costs were found in the Eastern region, though the RCN also highlighted those in the East Midlands, North West and West Midlands.

RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “The findings in this report are yet another kick in the teeth for hardworking and loyal nursing staff.

Peter Carter

“The government has maintained an iron grip on the pay and benefits of frontline staff, whilst the senior managers pay bill has seemingly gone unchecked,” he said. “This is the worst kind of double standard and makes a mockery of their insistence that fairness has been at the heart of their decision making on public sector pay.

He added: “Failing to pay nursing staff a decent wage will continue to affect nurses’ living standards and morale and cause many more to consider leaving the NHS which is bad for nurses, bad for the NHS and bad for the country. The government should do the decent and honourable thing and give nurses a decent wage.” 

The move is part of the college’s response to the government’s decision in March to ignore the independent Pay Review Body’s recommendation for a blanket 1% rise in nurses’ basic pay.

Instead, it said at the top of their band will receive the 1% but those eligible for an incremental rise will not.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has subsequently offered to give staff a permanent 1% pay rise over the next two years if unions agree to a freeze on incremental pay in 2015-16, or agree to negotiate further alterations to the Agenda for Change contract.

But in April, members of Unison voted overwhelmingly in favour of a ballot on industrial action, including striking, over pay – though a date for this vote has so far not been announced.

Fellow unions Unite and the Royal College of Midwives are currently holding consultation exercises with members on whether to ballot for action. However, the RCN has not revealed any similar plans.

Meanwhile nurses in Scotland will receive 1%, as the Scottish government has accepted the review body’s recommendations.

The government allows trusts the freedom to set their own levels of senior management remuneration, but has called on employers to exercise “responsibility and sensitivity” to their staff who are subject to national contracts.


Andrew Bassett-Scott Toogood sings about fair pay at RCN Congress 2014


Readers' comments (23)

  • vote these idiots out next year..this is the only way to save our nhs

    since this lot came in we have had nothing but no pay rises, rising waiting times, A&E in crisis and more!

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  • Why does this not surprise me? We are undervalued as it is and have less and less respect from Government. Cynical I may be, but when Politicians plead poverty and award themselves a massive pay increase when they got us into this mess in the first place, it is very galling.

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  • We know money is tight but it is clear that nurses are undervalued.

    Good nurses will leave the NHS to do something else- somebody elses gain.

    There is already a shortage of nurses in this country - how bad does it have to get before there is change for the better.

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  • Successive governements have relied on the good-will of nurses to work longer than their contracted hours in order to get the job done. There was a certain acceptance of this within our profession but in exchange we had the surety of our salary, our increments, our holiday entitlement and our pensions. Stripping us of this is just another way of de-valuing the NHS as an employer so that the Conservative Governement can move that bit closer to complete privatisation. We must protest at the ballot box, although I fear that our beloved NHS is already broken beyond economic repair.

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  • If i'm correct in saying, did the goverment say that to save money in the NHS they would cut managers jobs and pay not front line staff? Strange then that the only jobs being cut are nurse and admin staff, who makes these decisions oh yes the managers. So now we have hospitals in crisis because of staff shortages and just to demoralize these nurses further they won't get a pay rise. and now to top it off the senior managers get a 6.1% pay increase. may i remind those incharge if you don't have the front line staff i.e Nurse, HCA, Admin staff not too leave out all the other staff, you don't have a working hospital. Its about time you started to look after your staff.

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  • The Conservative goverment didn't break our NHS the last Labour goverment broke not only the NHS but the whole country, kept on spending more than we had. Now the conservatives are being blamed for the mess LABOUR caused. This goverment Need to get to grips with the high salarys executive directors and senior managers are getting when they don't deserve them.

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  • If they freeze incremental pay why on earth would anybody bother going for promotion, taking on more responsibility for less money! As a band 7 at the bottom of the pay scale I earn less than some of my band 5 staff nurses as I am not allowed to work weekends, bank holidays or nights. I earn less now than I did 5 years ago!

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  • Labour did not break the country, that was the greedy bankers. Labour poured money into the NHS to drive up quality and standards. The Tories want to privatise the whole thing for profits, just like the bankers.
    As long as you work in the NHS and continue to support the Tories, you are voting yourself out of a job and all the rest of us.

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  • strike action is the only way

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