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Outrage over Christmas pay illustrates a lack of respect

‘Nurses paid £120 an hour’ screamed the headlines last week – which must have astounded the nursing workforce, most of whom earn less than the average wage.

The information came from the Conservative Party, which had put in a Freedom of Information request to confirm that the Royal Chesterfield Hospital NHS Foundation Trust had paid an agency this amount.

The FoI request also covered the Royal Berkshire Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which was criticised for paying the same amount, although it had provided incorrect figures and the real cost was just over £20 an hour.

But, when you look behind the headlines, you discover that the nurse at the Royal Chesterfield was a senior sister in A&E and was working on Christmas Day.

Other professionals who work on Christmas Day are paid triple or double pay, so why is it such an outrage when experienced nurses are paid more to do so? Many would argue that £120 a hour – and that is the fee to the agency, the nurses receive less – is not enough as most of the population would not want to spend Christmas Day in an A&E ward.

At the same time, new figures showed the basic salary of nurses in England is increasing but overall earnings are not.

This could be because trusts have cut back on overtime despite cutting jobs and keeping posts vacant. So although there has been a small increase in the average salary for a qualified nurse to £26,200, total earnings remained the same.

The figures also raise questions about overtime. Nurses work a lot of unpaid overtime and it is likely that this has increased, particularly at trusts where finances are tight.

This week we cover the pros and cons of working nights – and it appears that the cons far outweigh the pros. Aside from the inconvenience, disruption to the body’s internal clock can damage health in the long term.

According to the nurses featured in our article, the benefits of working nights – including an average £300 extra a month – are not worth it. Recent changes to unsocial hours payments will not offset the drawbacks of working the night shift.

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