Nursing unions have issued a fresh warning today to the government over ongoing pay restraint arguing it will cause “lasting damage to the NHS”.
The Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Midwives, Unison and Unite were among 17 unions representing employees across the NHS that have come together this week to express their anger and disappointment at the government’s decision to maintain a 1% cap on pay for the time being.
“Nurses have endured years of real terms pay cuts because of the 1% pay cap”
They urged the government to listen to pay review bodies tasked with making recommendations on the level of NHS pay.
The unions, which also include those representing allied health professionals, doctors and health service managers, insist another year of pay restraint is “wholly unacceptable”.
Janet Davies, general secretary of the RCN, said the pay cap was standing in the way of filling widespread nurse vacancies and providing safe staffing levels.
“Just yesterday our worst fears were confirmed by figures from the NMC showing more nurses are leaving the profession than joining it. Is there any clearer warning that enough is enough?” she said.
“The government must act now to end public sector pay restraint and scrap the cap,” she added.
Unison head of health Sara Gorton warned the NHS was close to “breaking point”.
“Nurses have endured years of real terms pay cuts because of the 1% pay cap,” she said.
“When almost every professional group in the NHS has a shortage of staff, the government needs to intervene now”
“If the government continues to exploit the sense of vocation felt by healthcare staff, it won’t be long before recruitment and retention in the NHS reach breaking point.
“Not only do staffing shortages affect care quality and safety, they put pressure on the remaining nurses, healthcare assistants and midwives as well,” said Ms Gorton.
Jon Skewes, the Royal College of Midwives’ director for policy, employment relations and communications, described the decision to continue the pay cap as “completely reckless”.
“The RCM has previously warned that this is a disastrous and unsustainable decision for maternity services and the NHS,” he said.
“When almost every professional group in the NHS has a shortage of staff, as midwifery does, the government needs to intervene now to retain much-needed staff before it is too late,” he added.
The 17 unions repeated their offer to health secretary Jeremy Hunt to work together to address the “pay crisis” and find a sustainable solution.
Last month they wrote to Mr Hunt calling on him to hold a summit to discuss pay and the impact on NHS staff recruitment and retention across the UK.
Last month the health secretary told NHS bosses he had “a great deal of sympathy” for the arguments nurses had made about an end to pay restraint and that he would relay their concerns to the chancellor.
During a debate on pay last week, in which several MPs from different parties called for the 1% cap to be reviewed, Mr Hunt said the government would not make its decision on pay until a recommendation had been made by the NHS pay review body.