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Health secretary urged to address gender pay gap in nursing


Nursing leaders have urged the government to do more to address the gender pay gap in nursing and smash the idea that it is “low-paid women’s work”.

The call comes as health and social care secretary Matt Hancock prepared to make a speech to doctors promising more action to tackle the gender pay gap that sees female staff across the NHS paid on average 23% less than men.

“He must help us to shred any idea that nursing is ‘low-paid women’s work’”

Patricia Marquis

In his speech to the Royal College of Physicians today, the health secretary described gender equality as “mission critical” to the success of the NHS Long Term Plan in England.

“The gender gap is a good barometer of the health of the NHS and it’s clear we must do better,” he said.

Ensuring gender equality is the only way to address staffing shortages, deliver the ambitions of the NHS Long Term Plan and “build an NHS workforce fit for the future”, he argued.

In his speech at the RCP conference in Manchester he highlighted gender inequality in the medical profession and said it was “deeply troubling” that male GPs are on average paid a third more than female GPs and that more than half of junior doctors are women but at consultant level it is just a third.

In response, the Royal College of Nursing said there must also be a focus on addressing inequality in nursing.

“While the health secretary challenges the lack of women in medicine, he must help us to shred any idea that nursing is ‘low-paid women’s work’ too,” said RCN England director Patricia Marquis.

“Nursing has its own gender pay gap – men, who make up only 10% of nurses, often take many of the top jobs in nursing,” she noted.

“More than anything we need to create a more caring, a more compassionate culture”

Matt Hancock

She said the focus on equality was “extremely welcome” but added “things won’t change until everyone, regardless of race or religion, feels fully included in the health service”.

“Pay for nursing staff should reward their skill and expertise,” she said. “The profession must be shown as attractive to young women and men, and the flexibility in shift patterns that keep nurses in their job must be made a top priority.”

In his speech today, Mr Hancock also addressed the issue of flexible working and called for “smart digital rotas” to become the norm to give staff across the NHS more freedom to manage their time around work, family and other commitments and pick shifts to suit them.

In addition, he urged the NHS to offer more roles that are less than full-time, term-time only and job shares and – where feasible – encourage increased working from home to bring the health service in line with other sectors.

As well as introducing more flexible options, Mr Hancock called for changes to working cultures in order to create a more positive working environment and tackle issues like bullying and violence, which damage staff retention and morale.

While the NHS is essentially a “caring organisation”, he told the conference that “sometimes it doesn’t care enough about its workers”.

“We need more staff, more resources, better technology and, on my watch, we will have all of those,” he said.

“But more than anything we need to create a more caring, a more compassionate culture,” he added.

patricia marquis

patricia marquis

Source: Gareth Harmer

Patricia Marquis

His comments come ahead of the publication of an NHS People Plan, which was ordered by the health secretary in January to support the NHS Long Term Plan.

The interim report, being put together by Baroness Dido Harding with input from professional groups, is expected to set out initial measures the NHS will take to improve retention and become a better employer.

This will foreshadow the much-anticipated Workforce Implementation Plan due to published after the government’s spending review in the autumn.

According to the Department for Health and Social Care, measures due to be outlined in the NHS People Plan include action to boost flexible working and staff wellbeing and address issues including discrimination, violence, bullying and harassment.


Readers' comments (4)

  • too many managers think that nurses who work part time are not committed enough to be recognised as ward sisters . This problem has not changed in the last 40 years and it really is about time that it was recognised . Being a ward sister today should be about recognising good leadership and potential to build a team . It is not about working a 60 hour week . The most inspiring nurses I have ever worked with had busy lives away from the hospital that meant they walked out of the door on time and recognised that others needed to do this also. We will never be empowered as women until we shake off the guilt that we need to pick up the children.

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  • Not everybody can or wants to be a ward manager, band 5 nurses should be paid a better wage too, they work equally hard often having to care for more patients than safety requirements allow.

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  • How in hell is adressing a nonexistent gender pay gap going to solve the NHS staffing crisis? A Band 5 nurse is paid at Band 5 rates, whatever their gender. As I posted elsewhere, if males outnumber females at the higher bands, it is due to their being promoted on individual merit; the selection process is scrupulously fair and followed assiduously. The process promotes the best for the job, irrespective of their gender, because to do otherwise is illegal.
    As for flexible working, great, bring it. But I am sure that a better salary will do far more to address the staff shortage. Believe it or not, people can often tell when they are getting a raw deal; if they have other options, they will always turn down a poor offer. That's what is happening in Nursing now. If the Government and Public want a well staffed NHS, PAY FOR IT! To quote Robert A Heinlein, "TANSTAAFL" (There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch).

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  • Well said John, from a female Band 5.

    We are poorly paid because we are taken advantage of by a government that doesn't really care and they are ably supported by well paid nursing hierarchy who seem more concerned about children's nursing uniforms.

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