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'Pay nurses a decent wage to show good care is vital'


This week should see trusts publish all planned versus actual nurse staffing numbers in hospital wards across England on the NHS Choices website. It’s a landmark moment for the profession, according to the chief nursing officer for England Jane Cummings.

She says the work she and her team have done on the initiative, which is in response to the Francis report, is a major advance in safer staffing. She believes it is the start of a journey that will ensure boards pay attention to ward numbers, and justify why they have that number. “Because that’s what I can afford” won’t cut the mustard as a justification, apparently (page 4).

But if the government really wants to ensure there are enough nurses to provide care, employers don’t just need to plan to have more nurses, they need to be able to hire enough of them. The government must ensure enough nurses are trained in the first place and then motivate them to stay in nursing. Action area 6 of Compassion in Practice focuses on supporting staff experience. And as Ms Cummings said at the Royal College of Nursing’s annual congress in Liverpool last week: “We ignore staff experience at our peril.”

But ministers are ignoring staff experience by failing to pay nurses a decent wage, and therefore failing to recognise the value of good-quality care. Can nurses - can anyone - really continue to do a fantastic job, even though no one is valuing what they do?

RCN president Andrea Spyropoulos told congress she had heard stories of band 5 nurses going to food banks to feed their families.

Yet still the government thinks a 1% pay rise is acceptable.

Katie Sutton, a second-year Salford University student and Student Nursing Times mental health student editor, summed it up eloquently on stage in Liverpool. “I ask you, congress, when our purpose for being is to help people to live the best lives they can… do we not deserve the same?” she said.

Of course they do. But how can they get it? The RCN’s chief executive and general secretary, Peter Carter, believes next year’s general election will give nurses a chance to do just that - at the ballot box (page 4). Other unions are considering strike action. Albeit with reservations. That some nurses are contemplating the unpalatable proves one thing - that things have got really, really bad.

The transparent publication of staffing numbers on wards may well be a move in the right direction. But perhaps the government should be paying as much attention to the numbers in nurses’ pay packets.

Jenni Middleton, editor Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed


Readers' comments (4)

  • "RCN president Andrea Spyropoulos told congress she had heard stories of band 5 nurses going to food banks to feed their families".
    And what did Ms Cummings have to say about that? did I hear nothing? Well that would be no surprise would it, she wouldn't want to upset her friend and master Mr Hunt now would she.
    As for minimum staffing levels, she and Mr Hunt have opposed mandatory staffing levels at every turn.
    The published staffing levels will probably not be worth the paper their written as it is unlikely they will bear no semblance to reality. No doubt managers will be given advance warning of when the count is to take place and will ensure that maximum staffing are rostered for that day.

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  • Removed due to offensive nature.<br/><br/>Please refer to this site's terms and conditions before posting further:<br/>

  • Good pay or bad pay, good care is vital and every patient and relative knows this. Increased pay wont make better nurses, though it may relieve some of the stresses of running their homes and caring for their families.

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  • nurses are undervalued, usual emotional blackmail, I don't know why comments were deleted is it because the rcn don't value nurses and want them to be paid a living wage?

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