Congratulations to the Royal College of Nursing for highlighting the inequality in NHS pay in a piece of research carried out for its annual congress this week.
The government has long hid behind the idea that the health service simply can’t afford to pay nurses more or it would crumble. The RCN’s work proves that while nurses have been facing cuts, the same is not true of their senior executives (see page 2).
And while most nurses will end up getting rises of less than £5 a week (or £250 a year), the college has found half of the trusts questioned are giving over £5,000 to one or more executive directors.
It seems that what is good for the goose is not so good for the gander - and while nurses are expected to continue to take pay cuts in real terms, their top-level directors are not feeling the pinch or indeed even expected to. Let’s be honest, executive salaries are far higher to begin with, so any pay freeze or below-inflation rise is unlikely to see them fall within an inch of living on the breadline. But this can be a real risk for nursing staff.
Many are forced to take out payday loans from unscrupulous companies, leading them into debt, many are forced to take second jobs. Not only does this affect their quality of life - but also it affects the quality of their work if they are adding more working hours to an already long day.
But it’s more than that. This research indicates that nurses simply aren’t valued enough. The government has tried to suggest that the only quality nurses need is compassion - a kind word, a hold of the hand. Well yes, nursing does require compassion, but it’s much more than that. It’s a complex set of skills involving clinical expertise, intuition, experience and talent with people. Isn’t that worth paying for?
Nursing talent should be valued and cherished, and the desire to do this job and do it well should be rewarded.
It’s time the NHS, the government and everyone else stopped taking nurses for granted and started paying a fair wage for a job - and a hard job at that - which is extremely well done.
If the NHS is feeling the pinch, let everyone feel the pinch. Those who are doing most of the hard, manual, clinical and emotional labour in looking after patients are the ones who are also taking most of the pain in their bank accounts.
It’s time for a bit of equity. It’s time to play fair. It’s time to pay fair.
Jenni Middleton, editor
firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed