MPs are to debate the 1% freeze on nurse pay rises later today, following successful petitioning by campaigners.
A petition started by nurse campaigner Danielle Tiplady was subsequently signed by over 100,000 people – the threshold required on the parliament website for an issue to be considered for debate.
“We are only asking for a pay increase that keeps pace with the cost of living”
Catherine McKinnell, Labour MP for Newcastle North, will lead the debate, which will be held today in Westminster Hall at 4.30pm.
However, beforehand, nurses from across England will lobby MPs to attend the debate to remove the pay rise cap for NHS staff on the Agenda for Change contract.
The lobbying efforts, which are being driven by the Royal College of Nursing, are an attempt to influence the annual salary review process for NHS staff, which currently underway for 2017-18.
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After collecting evidence from unions, employers and the DH, the independent NHS pay review body will make a remuneration recommendation to ministers, who can then choose to accept or reject it.
MPs to debate freeze on nurse pay rises today
The RCN said that, due to the pay restraint enforced on all public sector staff since 2010, nurses were now 14% worse off in real terms.
The college highlighted recent analysis from the Trades Union Congress that has predicted a further salary drop of £2,500 by 2020.
Financial hardship had left many nurses struggling to support themselves forcing many to consider whether they can stay in the profession, warned the RCN ahead of the debate.
It reiterated its analysis that there were 24,000 nursing vacancies in the country and that removing the pay cap would help with staff retention and to attract more people into nursing.
“Every day we hear from our members that they are struggling with understaffing”
One nurse quoted by the RCN said: “This isn’t acceptable. It doesn’t inspire people to work for the NHS or even train to be a nurse. The way I feel at the moment, I wish I had chosen a different career.”
Another commented: “Every day I come home exhausted. My children tell me it’s affecting my health, but I need the money to cover food and clothing. I rely on pay day loans for everything else.”
Janet Davies, RCN chief executive and general secretary, said: “Nursing staff are the backbone of the health service, working under immense pressure to take care of people at their most vulnerable.
“It’s absolutely shameful these highly skilled, dedicated professionals are having to resort to food banks and pay day loans to make ends meet,” she said in a statement released ahead of the debate.
“They’re caring for the nation during a major crisis in the health service. We are only asking for a pay increase that keeps pace with the cost of living – it is the least our nurses deserve,” she added.
In a separate statement, the Royal College of Midwives said it was calling for the NHS pay review body to “break” the government’s policy of public sector pay restraint.
The RCM noted that it has produced a briefing for MPs, as part of its own ongoing campaign to end the government’s policy of pay restraint for midwives and other public sector employees.
The four-page briefing largely summarises the RCM’s evidence submitted to the pay review body in September, when it called for an “appropriate pay award” so the NHS was able to recruit and retain staff.
The RCM also said it would like to see a return to UK-wide pay structures for the NHS, which would involve re-setting bands 4-9 of Agenda for Change to the current Scotland rates.
Jon Skewes, the RCM’s director for policy, employment relations and communications, said: “As in the past, the government is pressuring the NHS Pay review body to keep pay awards to a maximum of 1% for NHS staff.
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“They need to stop this pressure and genuinely allow the pay body the freedom to recommend pay awards,” he said. “It is utterly disgraceful to expect midwives and other public sector workers to continue to work more as their salaries steadily decreases.
“The past six years of pay restraint in the NHS have seen midwives and maternity support workers salaries drop dramatically,” he said. The value of the average midwives salary has dropped by £6,000 and if the government’s policy of pay restraint continues until 2020 that will increase to £9,000.”
He added: “We are currently 3,500 midwives short in England alone and maternity units are struggling to meet the demands of the service. Every day we hear from our members that they are struggling with understaffing and subsequently are working harder and longer hours for less and less pay, and this simply cannot continue.”