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Be realistic about pay, RCN head tells nurses


The head of the Royal College of Nursing has said nurses must be “realistic” about salary rises in the near future.

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, told its conference that the economy meant they would have to be “pragmatic about future pay awards”.

We are watching where vacancies are being left unfilled and we are watching where staff are being made redundant

He said: “Our priority has to be the preservation of frontline clinical services. It would be pointless having a pay award at the expense of services and jobs.”

But he reaffirmed a commitment to fight any attempt to undermine national pay awards and local attempts to downgrade Agenda for Change terms and conditions, telling the auditorium “We have challenged foundation trusts who have tried to dismantle aspects of the national pay structure that we fought so hard to secure.”

He said the RCN had done a good job negotiating rises for its members over recent years saying the promised 2.25% increase promised had been delivered.

“The pay deal has been good for nurses especially when compared to the rest of the public sector, not to mention the private sector where redundancies, pay freezes and pay cuts have been the norm.”

Dr Carter won a round of applause from delegates after saying that if nurses must accept “the reality of the financial situation then so too must our NHS leaders” adding that pay increases “double that of nursing staff “demonstrated very, very poor leadership”.

Later in his afternoon speech he launched ‘Frontline First’ - urging RCN members to report any cuts, inefficiencies or compromises on patient care.

He said: “We are watching where the cuts are being made, we are watching where vacancies are being left unfilled and we are watching where staff are being made redundant and services shut down.

“We’re already building a picture across the UK of where the biggest, deepest and most dangerous cuts are taking place. And this grim picture means that we will be the voice for patients, nurses and the public.”

But he signalled the RCN would not fight every ward or unit closure indiscriminately, as long as there was evidence it would improve patient care.

“Given the huge amount of savings and efficiencies that the NHS may have to make over the next few years, we’re going to have to look again at the way we deliver some of our key services.

“It’s never popular to talk about closing local services or moving healthcare teams from one location to another. But it’s always important to ask the objective question - will this change bring about an improvement to patient care? If the answer to the question is ‘yes’, we have to consider changes, be open-minded about new services and embrace new ways of working.”

The conference continues until Thursday.


Readers' comments (23)

  • Well this isn't thoroughly suprising. But it's a bit silly to ask us to be pragmatic about pay rises. I mean it's not like we've ever demanded a 20% pay rise or even half that so how much more pragmatic can we get.

    I'm not sure the RCN could get us a decent rise even if it had the keys to the bank

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  • Does he think we are stupid?

    We have learnt to expect very little as our unions are toothless yes men (& women)

    But we are not ignorant of the financial situation either

    How patronising!

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  • sounds like a football manager making excuses about injuries before the game has kicked off.

    Thats's okay Peter we'll not expect anything much from the RCN, but there again we never have!

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  • Seems silly and unfair when you hear that the bankers, that the tax payers bailed out, are all still getting massive bonuses! We save lives for goodness sake!!

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  • How patronising and yet unsurprising. What salary is Peter Carter on? I have been qualified for 10 years as a critical care nurse and it is hard work. After all these years of experience and enhanced skills, my basic annual salary is only £25,000! Most other public professions start on that! A social worker starts on £26,000! For many years the government and RCN have treated nursing like a sub profession or vocation (I hate that word), when most of us have degrees and have undergone post registration training and education (especially in critical care and specialist areas) to acquire the enhanced skills and knowledge in order to carry out extended roles. As a result of this, many specialist and critical nurses are expected to carry out roles previously allocated to junior doctors. It is frustrating working for a profession that does not command any respect or support from the government and public, which I think stems from the fact that it is PREDOMINANTLY FEMALE, as the police, doctors and teachers have been treated much better.I honestly think if nursing was predominantly male we would not be having these issues. As far as I am concerned and from anecdotes given to me by colleagues the RCN are useless and I have never had any incentive to join them. All they care about is brown nosing the government and not looking after nurse's interest. Our pay rises have been abysmal- barely covering the rate of inflation meanwhile others get up to 20% pay rises for jobs that do not entail saving lives! If nurses walked out for just a few hours the NHS will collapse. They've taken advantage of the goodwill of nurses not to strike that we get treated like doormats. Remember AGENDA for change and how they said it would be better for us- well it benefited everyone else than NURSES! All they want is to get as much out of us for as little as they can get away with. I am hoping to leave and continue nursing in the states soon.

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  • If you look at the other professions for example police, teachers, or fire services you will find that majority of those areas workforce are predominantly white British workers and I don't mean to play the race card but compared to the nursing profession you will find a lot of dare I say fo " foreigners" all races though but because of this o think that is why nurses are also not valued enough

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  • come on peter u come on the frontline and get your hands dirty in 2010 and we can sit on ass with your money. u must have forgot to work for your money don't be so patronising just keep an eye on your own job because it is waste of money at the moment?

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  • I agree wholeheartedly with every word written above (not sure about the race issue but the fact we are predominently women-yes that is key). I voted for Peter Carter hoping a man would change something but he has no fight in him for us at all, the ones who actually do the caring.
    They all make me sick.

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  • john warwick

    The head of the RCN can say what he wants with his 100k+ salary look at the rates of pay the RCN pays its own workers and then look at what the NHS pays nurses get off your high horse peter and pay us what we deserve otherwise we will all go to unision

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  • Well at least we aren't greedy, materialistic and money grabbing like certain other members of society. I think that actually means a lot. We haven't got huge egos to feed, we just get on with our jobs and make a real difference to the most vulnerable, disadvantaged and needy members of society. Three cheers for nurses! No wonder Gordon loves us....

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