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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)

  • Where is the money saved from axing burseries going ? Seems to be no mention of that

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  • lots of nurses are now saying it and I will sum up
    1 useless pay level
    2 persecution by the NMC (which we have to pay for)
    3 bullying and harassing of nurses by malicious toxic useless managers
    4 the obsession with meaningless targets and outcomes which are used as weapons against us
    5 do the honourable thing. If anyone you know thinks of taking up nursing tell them DONT
    6 I am retired from NHS (currently an agency nurse) but have had enough I will not be going through this revalidation nonsense and I refuse to to pay every year for the NMC inquisition run by a massively paid witchfinder general. How much is she on £140,000, just think, thats 1400 nurse shifts . If this was the (17 century the NMC would be burning midwives and nurses at the stake.

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  • What`s the point of a pay review body when thay are told by government to cap any rise at 1%. I thought they were supposed to be "Independent". What a joke, and yet another nail in the NHS coffin. I`m leaving in a few months thankfully, and don`t hold out any hope of a better deal in the future, at least while the Tories hold the purse strings.

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  • I work in private healthcare and our pay 'award' is 1.2%. From October! The excuse is that the national living wage legislation needs to be met, hence no money in the pot for us in April. And we don't get any extra money for weekends, nights etc. Only bank holidays. It's supposed to be reflected in our base salary of £14.75 per hour. Really?? Believe me, you are no better off in private healthcare.

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  • Soooo depressing and demoralising

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  • It is not just the unions who are to blame. Jane Cummings and others in senior Nursing roles have sold us down the river in an attempt to cosy up to the Hunt and the DoH.

    Let's hope they never get the"honors" they are so obviously chasing.

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  • Doesn't look like nursing is so attractive anymore in the UK, more are leaving, including myself, never renewing on the NMC register again in any case. I'll stick with Canada, far better, thanks. The bully managers of the NHS always was a problem, no people skills, no leadership skills, no proper management training or interpersonal skills training, but good at being incompetent at being a manager. NMC needs a good shake up now too by the look of it. Nursing pay is disgustingly low, should be on a par with other professionals, and it's been this way for years, pick a better profession folks!

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  • Its about time NHS staff fought for the pay rise they deserve! they keep giving us an insulting 1% because we roll over and take it every year. Its a joke

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  • Not impressed with the 1%. I work hard and feel very under appreciated. Agree with other comments on here about government bodies and senior management getting far better increases if they cant manage on what they get then that is bad money management! I don't have long to go till retirement and am already working on whether I can go now. What with cost to register and work, union dues which get taken and I see little for it, what incentive is there to stay in an environment that treats us with so little respect

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