Once again the government has sanctioned the idea that nurses do more for less.
By deciding not to universally give them the below-inflation 1% pay rise recommended by the pay review body, Jeremy Hunt is making nurses work for less than they did a year ago (see news, page 3).
His argument is that the NHS can afford to have more nurses if it pays them all less. It’s simple economics.
The government is right to want to keep more nurses working in the NHS. As the recent RN4CAST study showed (news, page 5, 5 March), increasing a nurse’s workload by just one patient increases the chance of an inpatient dying within 30 days of admission by 7%.
This evidence proves nurses are vital to care, and yet here is the government once again undervaluing them. The profession has been through a sustained period of so many cuts, and at a time when patients have been sicker and required more care than ever before. So yes, there may be more nurses now, but it’s a drop in the ocean considering what is actually required to deliver safe care.
Our recent surveys on staffing levels bear this out. They have found nurses don’t feel there are enough of them to deliver the kind of quality care they want to be offering. They are more over-worked than they have been for years. And so when the government caps their pay, they also feel incredibly undervalued.
The government sits on its hands as the bankers whose mistakes resulted in our financial woes receive huge bonuses. The argument is that otherwise they will walk
The two-year deal offers staff a 1% rise this year, and 2% next year - but only if they are at the top of their pay band and aren’t due for incremental rises. The other 55% of NHS staff - equivalent to around 70% of nurses - will not get anything on top of their increments. This further undermines the idea of Agenda for Change because theoretically nurses on the same bands are getting unequal pay rises - exactly what AfC was established to prevent.
The government hopes nurses will put up and shut up. Because they always have. For most, the job isn’t just about “simple economics”. They do it because they feel a duty to do the right thing.
The government sits on its hands as the bankers whose mistakes resulted in our financial woes receive huge bonuses. The argument is that otherwise they will walk. Meanwhile, nurses are disregarded because the government is sure they won’t walk. It seems doing the right thing doesn’t bring you your just rewards in nursing.
But the higher A level grades required for a nursing degree course changes the situation’s “simple economics”. Students will have other more lucrative career choices and may choose not to go into a profession where being taken for granted is in the job description.
Jenni Middleton, editor
email@example.com. Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed