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'Bitter blow' to nurses as NHS 1% pay rise in England confirmed


NHS nurses working in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should receive a 1% pay increase in 2017-18, according to the national body that reviews NHS salaries.

In recommendations for the government published today, the independent NHS Pay Review Body said all staff on Agenda for Change contracts should see their wages uplifted by 1% from 1 April.

“[This deal] is a derisory amount in the face of soaring fuel bills, rising food prices and increasing transport costs”

Christina McAnea

The recommendations have been accepted by the government in England following a statement made by health minister Lord O’Shaughnessy in parliament today.

Wales and Scotland have already confirmed this week that all NHS staff will receive a 1% increase for 2017-18, based on the pay review body’s recommendations.

It comes at a time when the government has previously said it will continue with a policy of pay restraint for all staff in public services, by capping annual wage rises at an average of 1% until 2020.

Unions have today reacted in anger to the body’s recommendations, calling the 1% uplift a “derisory amount” in the face of increasing living costs, warning that it will deter people from becoming nurses at a time of chronic staff shortages.

The Royal College of Nursing said the increase was effectively a real-terms pay cut, because it meant wages were not keeping up with inflation.

“Tens of thousands of nursing jobs lie vacant today and the government missed the opportunity to stop that getting worse”

Janet Davies

Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, described the recommendation as a “bitter blow” to nursing staff and that it would put off new people from joining the profession.

“The government has already cut nursing pay by 14% in real-terms – leaving too many struggling and turning to foodbanks and hardship grants,” she said.

“Ministers are ignoring the evidence that staff shortages put patient care and safety at risk. Tens of thousands of nursing jobs lie vacant today and the government missed the opportunity to stop that getting worse,” she said.

She added that the new pay recommendation was on top of a recently confirmed ban on agency work for nurses who are permanently employed by an NHS trust, which the RCN did not support.

Unison’s head of health Christina McAnea, who is also the overall spokesperson for unions representing NHS staff, said: “This deal amounts to less than five pounds a week for most midwives, nurses, cleaners, paramedics, radiographers and other healthcare staff.

“It’s a derisory amount in the face of soaring fuel bills, rising food prices and increasing transport costs,” she said.

“The government’s insistence on the 1% cap has tied the pay review body’s hands. As the pay review body itself admits, it can no longer prevent health employees’ pay falling way behind wages in almost every part of the economy,” she added.

“This won’t staunch the recruitment and retention crisis currently affecting many healthcare professions”

Sarah Carpenter

She warned that without larger pay rises, experienced staff would leave the NHS, exacerbating the staffing crisis further.

“Today’s unfair settlement is yet more evidence of the government’s failure to invest in the NHS. Ministers must stop relying on goodwill, rethink this short-sighted pay policy and reward staff properly,” she said.

Unite’s national officer for health Sarah Carpenter described the review body’s recommendations as “woefully inadequate”, referring to previous years of continued pay restraint.

“This won’t staunch the recruitment and retention crisis currently affecting many healthcare professions, which is exacerbated by the ugly Brexit shadow hanging over the future of the estimated 55,000 EU nationals working for the NHS,” she said.

The Royal College of Midwives added that it was “extremely disappointing” that the government had chosen to continue with this “disastrous policy” of pay restraint for the seventh year running.


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Christina McAnea

“As a result of below-inflation increases for the past seven years midwives have seen their pay drop in value by over £6,000 since 2010; it is unsustainable for this to continue,” said Jon Skewes, RCM director for policy, employment relations and communications.

He noted there was already a shortage of nursing and midwifery staff in the country with two further “looming” crises coming up, due to the removal of bursaries for healthcare students, and the possibility that European Union staff may not be able to stay in the country following Brexit.

“The government needs to take notice of the evidence that the RCM, and other NHS trade unions put to the NHS Pay Review Body and show they understand the seriousness of the staffing crisis in the NHS and work to retain existing NHS staff in the service,” he added.


Readers' comments (19)

  • Usual blah blah blah from the unions. Unless nurses withdraw their labour this will continue indefinitely.

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  • I will soon get more money working at lidl than i do saving lives! Feel so under appreciated, and the public expects so much from us. Stupid 1% and what did the clinical directors get I wonder?

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  • Am I seriously considering quitting? Not just the NHS but Nursing. I can get pretty much the same pay working in Lidl or Aldi without any of the extra bullshit I'm expected to deal with.

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  • I sincerely hope that the ministers stick to the1% pay rise as well, rather than the double standards of last year when they rewarded themselves very nicely. I thought 'we are all in this together '.

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  • I always wonder why nurses are always surprised and angry at the pay rise each year. I personally would have been happier in the years where nurses were pulled up to where we are now on broken promises of Thatcher and Blair. Tied to more than a pound of flesh and thrown in the river. Sold our soul to the Devil in the pay reviews of 5%+ chasing Degree status and the rest. We have always alway always had to give back far MORE in effort and constant change than the pay award was worth. Ministers and our leaders have been laughing all the way to the bank watching us bare ourselves in chasing our pay awards. I have lost count of what silver we have sold to get our pay awards in the past 38 years. It has definitely not been for the better of our patients. I doubt it has done much for our bank balances either in the long run. If we are only 'worth' 1% please lets stop giving them 101% in return! But who will suffer. All I hear is how much Nurses and other Health professionals are valued- but when it comes down to it they don't see our value except to exploit it.
    As for what the Clinical Director get- if its 1% its a darn sight more than any other 1% a hospital employee gets.
    As for Ministers sticking to 1%-well dream on. They are already bleating that they cannot live on what they are getting now, poor things.
    The general public are not interested in paying for our pay rises, they slag us off every year over our bleating, while singing our praises for being their saviours 3 hours after our shift ends, not a chance in hell of getting paid for it or getting our time back. Sadly we cannot have our cake and eat it- We either have to suck it up and take it on the chin or take the bull by the horns. 20 years ago I was of the former persuasion, I am now lucky enough to be out of the NHS and because I still l have to pay the mortgage- fleeced by the Pension Equiniti for doing so I am more inclined to follow the latter path if I had not taken early retirement.
    Time to wake up boys and girls and decide what neds to be done- Nursing wants to have a Status of leading a Patients journey, perhaps it needs a wake up call, all round. Rcn is all talk, and the dates of NUPE and COHSE are gone. UNISON not much better-perhaps its time Nurses and their other employees got tough with THEM- after all we pay their wages- I bet they won't get 1% and I bet our subs will be going up soon...

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  • Jenni Middleton asked why is no-one steering Nursing off the rocks- We have Mice in the Wheelhouse.....

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  • The RCN really needs to show leadership or quit as a union - Either part of the problem or part of the solution

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  • Well that's not a shock as that is all the government thinks we are worth no wonder people want to leave profession . Let's hope they give themselves the same rise lol

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  • NT: please don't call it a pay 'rise', when it's a real terms cut. Again. Use pay 'award'.

    Colleagues, don't blame the unions for this. Blame yourselves. We were balloted on strike action over the decimation of our pension. What did we do? Bugger all. Apathy all the way. Do you really think we will ever be balloted again? The unions are terrified of our apathy. If only the Gvt were terrified of our latent power. That will not change until nursing flexes it's political muscles.

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  • The panel that decides on nurses fate thinks they know it all, targeting nurses, cutting pay and forcing / dictating to nurses who and when they should work, well let's see where these changes will go. I am off to Canada, can't work for less than l am worth.

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