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