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'Pay squeeze tells nurses they are undervalued'


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 Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed


Readers' comments (17)

  • Tinkerbell

    when the clowns award themselves 11% and nurses nothing speaks volumes about what they think, then have the hypocrisy to tell us 'we're all in this together' sound bite.

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  • how about nurses 11%

    politicians 1%, they would hardly notice the difference especially as they can claim just about anything back on expensses

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  • Well Said

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  • this is what the tories have in store for our nhs

    The recent speech by the government plant in the Care Quality Commission, David Prior, has called for NHS Trusts who have fallen into financial difficulty to be taken over by European or American ‘Hospital Chains’.

    Such a move would present new opportunities to Circle Health, the first company to takeover the running of a NHS hospital and a company that is embedded into the highest areas of government influence. Not only is a former Circle employee writing the health policy for No10, but another of their former staff is health adviser to Jeremy Hunt. If you add the donations ending up in the local office of the policy unit head, then you could say No10 is now the House of Circle.

    A secret plan to hand over NHS hospitals to foreign companies was initially exposed by the transparency campaigners, Spinwatch in 2011. A Freedom of Information release unearthed communications between management consultancy firm McKinsey and the Department of Health, which revealed how over 20 NHS hospitals should be taken over by foreign firms. This process should be done with a “mindset of one at a time…because of various political constraints associated with privatisation.”

    In David Prior’s speech made at a health seminar in London last week, the former Conservative Chief Executive cited the private hospital company, Circle, who took over the running of Hitchingbrooke hospital back in 2011, as being a model that could be followed for such a process.

    This sentiment was one that was shared by fellow Conservative MP Mark Simmonds who landed his role as strategic adviser to Circle in December 2010. This new position was taken up just five months after he had finished his role as Shadow Health Secretary. The blog ‘NHS Vault’ revealed that within a report written by the Hitchingbrooke Health Care NHS Trust Chief Executive's & Franchise Representatives, Simmonds visited the hospital in July 2012 and told those in attendance, “In this hospital you can change the way the NHS works, in my view for the better, you are at the frontier of the way healthcare is going to be provided in the future.”

    The support of Circle within government is also supported by their presence in the heart of government policy. Nick Seddon, is a former Head of Communications for Circle, who moved to the free market think tank Reform as deputy director. Reform are heavily funded by private healthcare, which includes private hospital groups.

    Whilst at Reform, Seddon was highly active lobbying alongside private healthcare to ensure competition remained int he Health and Social care bill. In addition, he called for an increase in private companies taking over NHS hospitals, which was part of a campaign by Reform backed by the Telegraph who helped promote Circle's model. David Cameron, who had said lobbying would be the 'next big scandal' decided to hand a healthcare lobbyist a role in the health policy unit at No10.

    This is not the only influence Circle have in the echelons of government health policy. Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt chose to hire Christina Robinson, another former Head of Communications at Circle as his special adviser.

    The direction of where health policy is going couldn’t be clearer, but it isn’t just there where Circle has representation in government policy.

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  • Anonymous | 18-Mar-2014 3:00 pm

    You seem very well informed. Is this fact or more of your own personal opinion? If it is the former, I would like to share it, if you give me your permission.

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  • Anonymous | 18-Mar-2014 3:00 pm

    Labour spinning again

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  • michael stone

    It isn't just nurses, who this goverment wants to 'do more work for less'. And in all honesty, the country isn't exactly awash with money at the moment - although I'm not in agreement with how this goverment divides the cake up, a smaller cake does mean less cake to hand out.

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  • re above anon 7.01pm

    facts taken from a freedom of information request through my union and share with as many people as you like...SPREAD THE WORD

    and to anon 10.09 your obviously a tory and would like nothing else than the total privatisation of the nhs

    i wonder if you have shares in these companies mmmm!!

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  • We know that nurses will not go on strike and consequently we can offer them whatever we want. Whatever industrial actions they take will not put patients at risk. They believe nursing is a vocation and that they are angels. They will always provide cover and will not abandon their patients.
    The majority of nurses are women and they work to supplement their hubands salaries. If we threaten them with redundancy they will accept what we give them. They are so stupid that they put the welfare of others before that of the family.

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  • OMG I thought I had somehow gone through a black hole and gone back in time to the 1950s. "The majority of nurses are women and they work to supplement their husbands salaries". How insulting, and untrue. Most women (whether nurses or not) work to JOINTLY contribute towards household expenses. I am a single parent. I am supporting both myself and my child, no husband to "supplement"

    Who are you anon 19 march 4.02 pm?!!

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