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Exclusive: Local pay likely to hit England's worse-paid nurses

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The wages of some of the lowest paid nurses in the country are likely to be hit further by the government’s plans to introduce local pay bargaining, figures obtained by Nursing Times reveal.

Last Wednesday chancellor George Osborne confirmed local pay could be rolled out to parts of the public sector from this year.

If applied to the NHS, this may lead to the Agenda for Change pay framework being scrapped and wages negotiated on a regional, or even trust-by-trust basis.

As previously reported, the NHS pay review body is due to report to the government in July on whether, and how, pay could be made more in line with private sector rates.

The Treasury argued in documents submitted to the body on the day of the budget that public sector staff in some parts of the country were paid up to 17.5% more than their peers in the private sector.

The areas it said had the biggest gap between private and public sector wages were Yorkshire and the Humber – with the exception of West Yorkshire – Strathclyde in Scotland, Wales and more rural parts of the West Midlands.

But previously unpublished data from the NHS Information Centre, obtained by Nursing Times, reveal that nurses at around two dozen trusts in some of the areas highlighted by the Treasury are already among the lowest paid in the country.

Qualified nurses, midwives and health visitors at these trusts have combined average earnings below £34,400, the national average across all 165 acute trusts in England.

The lowest average nurse pay, excluding specialist trusts, was £32,100 at Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Foundation Trust, while at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals Foundation Trust the average nurse received £32,800 and those in Wye Valley Trust got £32,900.

A Royal Bournemouth spokeswoman insisted the trust paid nationally agreed Agenda for Change rates, followed national guidelines for pay and worked closely with staff side representatives.

The highest wages were mainly found in London trusts, such as Homerton University Foundation Trust, where nurses earn £40,700 on average.

NHS organisations in the capital and its surroundings are already permitted to pay staff “London weighting” of up to a fifth more than the standard Agenda for Change rate.

NHS Employers, the organisation that represents trusts, suggested last week that similar supplements could be extended to other parts of the country, especially other major cities.

Professor James Buchan, from the social sciences and healthcare faculty at Edinburgh’s Queen Margaret University, said the current differences were likely to reflect staff turnover and the age and skill levels of nurses.

But he said local pay setting carried “high risks of unintended consequences” in the NHS. “Working out where the supplements should be paid will be challenging and problematic,” he said.

For example, Oxford and Edinburgh have high living costs, suggesting a supplement would be appropriate. But they probably face less competition from the private sector for nurses than other areas, meaning market pay rates could be lower.

The figures also reveal the size of pay gap between nurses, managers and medical staff.

At the lowest end of the scale, nurses at Western Sussex Hospitals Trust earn on average £33,400. This represents just over two fifths of the £77,000 average salary for the trust’s managers.

But at Hinchingbrooke Healthcare Trust in Cambridgeshire nurses earn four fifths of average management salaries – though clinical managers are not included in the figures.

Western Sussex’s finance director Spencer Prosser suggested different workforce definitions could affect the data. He said his trust took an “extremely strict interpretation” of what classified as a manager or senior manager and that others trusts “may take a difference approach”.

Nurses at the Homerton receive average wages that are 57% of its doctors’ average pay, but at Central Manchester University Foundation Trust they are only worth 29%.

Announcing his plans for local pay setting in the budget statement last week, Mr Osborne said he wanted to make public services “more responsive, and help our private sector to grow and create jobs in all parts of the country”.

But Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said local pay would weaken already-depressed areas.

“The dismantling of Agenda for Change would be the government’s final nail in the coffin of our NHS,” he said.

See the attached Excel sheet for information (right) for more details on the average nurse pay at your trust and those across the rest of the country.

  • 48 Comments

Readers' comments (48)

  • Will this apply to Drs wages as well ? or will it be nurses bearing the brunt of the hardship ?

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  • These figures are skewed. The vast majority of qualified nurses are employed at Band 5 and earn around £28,000.

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  • I didn't know nurses earned £32 000-£40 000.Are these true figures? What about band 5 nurses who start on 21k,are they not included in this survey? Stop deceiving the public,the majority of nurses do not get £33 000/month.Come out clean and be honest,whoever came up with these numbers.

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  • Figures defo fixed, I dont know many nurses earning more than top end band 5. I would like to know where the government gets its figures from. Nurses dont get paid that much, as a single mum my salary just meets my essential out goings. This government sickens me. But the unions will role over and make things sound really great when in fact they are not. AfC was supposed to better for nurses, ensuring we received on going training, now thats a laugh, Ive struggled to get any further training other than mandatory, always being told that a band higher needed to go before me.

    I pray that this will not go ahead, the implications dont bear thinking about

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  • tinkerbell

    I think it comes under the heading of 'propaganda'. Get these figures out to the general public and they will wonder what we're all moaning about as we get paid a decent wage.

    Statistics, lies, lies and damned lies to fool the masses.

    So long as we can be portrayed as a financial drain on society along with all other public sector workers then they can justify we are not needed and someone else can do the job much cheaper/better/more cost effective.

    It's all tactics i think with a many pronged approach. Discredit and then put the boot in in any other area available. Divide and conquer as usual. Works really well.

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  • tinkerbell 27-Mar-2012 12:57pm

    Discredit and then put the boot in
    Yep that is what the government is doing.

    Most nurses in my area are on band 5, to go onto band 6 is a Junior Sister post so nurses surely can not be on the average wage of £33.000. Maybe in other areas wards have lots of band 6 nurses would like to find out.

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  • It's called "making a Straw Man". First you create a case, largely false; but with recognisable elements. Then you proceed to demolish it, this appears like genuine argument. We all know government stats say what they want it to. First our reputation was assinated, now our pay will be squeezed. Wake up boys and girls!

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  • This is a tried and tested tactic of the Tory governments of old. Get the public outraged at the public sector with false / creative accounts and make sure they have no sympathy. During the miners strike the Torys in Scotland published that miners were on £400 a week when they were taking home £105 a week. Its all about grinding us down and offering a pitance. The Torys best ally at the last election was the poor memory of those who lived under them in the past and the gullable who had not. Why do English people vote for these cretins?????

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  • tinkerbell

    Peedoffnurse | 27-Mar-2012 3:32 pm

    Well said. It took the country just a mere 17 years or something to forget. Short term memory loss or what?

    Do you have to be 18 to vote? If so it wasn't the young uns who voted them in, maybe it was the old uns with mild to moderate cognitive decline.

    But then at this election there wasn't much choice as the labour party has changed beyond recognition from the days of that old chap who use to wear mostly a duffle coat and unkempt grey hair, whatever his name was.

    But at least even the labour party in its watered down version were better than this shower.

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  • Someone voted this Government in - regardless of the Coalition etc, and lets be honest if the Tories were on their own they'd have done this last year.

    Fact is that the turnout at the 2010 General Election was 65.1% the third lowest turnout since the end of the Second World War. It might sound glib and trite but the fact is that we live in a democracy but less than 2/3rds of us actually practice it.

    We need to make sure that come 2015 that everyone is motivated properly to exercise their rights at the ballot box - with a decent turn out no one can argue against the result or whether the Government of the Day has a mandate.

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