The Royal College of Nursing has written to MPs across the “political spectrum” asking them to support efforts to contest the government’s decision to hold back a basic pay rise for many nurses.
The RCN said the government’s decision had “shocked and angered nursing staff across the UK”, and warned that it would lead to people leaving the profession.
As widely reported, the government last month rejected a recommendation from the NHS Pay Review Body to give a 1% cost of living increase for all staff on Agenda for Change contracts.
“Nurses feel they are being personally attacked or punished”
Ministers said staff eligible for an incremental rise would receive no separate cost of living pay rise while those staff at the top of their pay band will receive temporary, non-consolidated 1% pay rises in this year and the next.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt subsequently offered to give all staff a 1% pay rise if unions agreed to a freeze on incremental pay in 2015-16 or negotiated further alterations to Agenda for Change. Unions are yet to publically reject either of these options, though it is understood they are not being viewed favourably.
In the letter to MPs, RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “The morale of the nursing workforce is at an all-time low.
“They feel they are being personally attacked or punished and many are viewing this refusal by the government as the final straw and may leave the profession,” he said.
“We can ill-afford a further exodus, given the widely-accepted workforce issues already facing the NHS and the difficulties trusts all across the UK are having in recruiting nurses to vacant posts.”
Dr Carter added: “Failing to award a modest 1% cost of living increase to the workforce that has carried the NHS throughout huge reorganisation and large scale workforce cuts will prove to be short-sighted and damaging to the NHS in the long run.”
As well as calling for their support, the letter also urges MPs to actively press the health secretary on the issue.
Some have already done so, with the pay deal featuring in last Tuesday’s health questions with Jeremy Hunt in the Commons.
Meanwhile, a meeting of the Unison’s healthcare executive agreed last Wednesday to seek an emergency vote at its annual healthcare conference on 15 April. It will seek to obtain permission to ballot its 450,000 NHS members over potential industrial action.