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Pay nurses fairly before you lose them for good

  • 7 Comments

It is time to pay nurses a fair wage because the continuing cuts to their incomes is draining not just their personal finances, but ruining the NHS and undermining its ability to run a safe service.

Nurses are one of the most well-regarded, trusted and respected professions by the public – and yet they are never respected when it comes to their pay.

On Monday, MPs debated the 1% pay rise cap for NHS nurses in the House of Commons as a result of the Royal College of Nursing lobbying to influence the annual salary review process, which is currently under way for NHS staff for 2017-18.

The RCN states that because of the pay restraint forced on public sector staff since 2010, nurses are 14% worse off in real terms.

“I remember several nurses telling me they could not afford to ever go on holiday”

It’s time to recognise that if nurses and midwives get paid only 1% more each year, then they will no longer afford to stay in their profession. During the strikes about pay a couple of years ago, I remember several nurses telling me they could not afford to ever go on holiday, get mortgages or even pay for food. This is shocking. Actually, it’s more than that, it’s outrageous.

This is not the way to treat those looking after the most vulnerable people in our society, doing complex jobs and working unsocial hours in order to do so. Nurses are precious and valuable to society, and yet they are made to feel worthless, quite literally.

“This is not the way to treat those looking after the most vulnerable people in our society”

It is also not acceptable to ask students to pay for their own training, remove the bursary, and then leave them with a salary that refuses to keep step with the economy. It feels somewhat ironic that those justifying the introduction of student fees for nursing defend it by saying that it is OK because many nurses will never earn enough to pay it back.

But even if ministers can ignore the ideological perspective of this debate, refusing to put the pay up creates a real threat to the profession and workforce supply.

We are struggling to retain the nursing workforce, with Brexit and the student education funding reforms making it difficult to recruit and retain nurses, this is not the time to encourage more nurses to take the door marked “exit”.

“This is not the time to encourage more nurses to take the door marked “exit””

As former Labour health secretary Andy Burnham pointed out, it does not make sense for a government to cut the bursary at a time when it is struggling to recruit and retain nurses. He believes that the pay caps will drain staff out of the NHS and into the private sector. And he is probably right.

Former health minister and Conservative MP Dr Dan Poulter said during the debate that it was “unacceptable” for senior NHS managers to be given big pay rises while frontline staff were left with increases of zero or 1%.

Everyone knows that the NHS is in trouble and that the finances don’t stack up. But why should the lowest paid workers pay the price for this? Why should nurses be the ones to continue to put up and shut up? It used to be that there was a never ending supply of nurses all eager to do their jobs and so if you annoyed one group of nurses, you could find some more who would be willing to do the job. But the rules have changed. Organisations cannot find enough nurses to provide the care they need, so guess what government? You’re going to have to pay more to attract nurses and keep them. It’s time you acknowledged that fact, before it really is too late.

Because by refusing to pay nurses a fair wage, you are not just screwing over nurses, you are screwing over the NHS and its patients.

  • 7 Comments

Readers' comments (7)

  • Well said Jenni Middleton, really wish the nursing unions had someone like you at the helm.

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  • Thanks for the words of support Jenni, but this Government has set it`s stall our quite clearly to ruin the NHS and it`s workforce, and to be fair, they are doing a really good job.

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  • Jenni Middleton has hit the nail on the head. The profession will slowly be eroded whilst successive Governments, not just the current one, fail to take into account the hard work and dedication front line nurses put into their day. Without pay increases which reflect this dedication then our colleagues will continue to leave for more lucrative posts overseas. Stopping Student Nurse bursaries further erodes the profession. How are they to take experiential placements whilst working shifts in paid employment to make ends meet. Nurses need to be heard before it all goes wrong.

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  • the government has already lost its plot; many nurses are working through agencies and have realising their value and are now able to make ends meet by exiting NHS employment and carry on with life as agency nurses.

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  • I think most people would find it near on impossible to raise a family on a nurses salary.

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  • "But even if ministers can ignore the ideological perspective of this debate, refusing to put the pay up creates a real threat to the profession and workforce supply"

    And there's the problem: a political mindset that believes the NHS should not exist, any fool who works for it will be rewarded appropriately. Sadly, nursing does not present any political threat to the individual careers of Tory MPs. Only when it would be politically prudent to do so would we be rewarded appropriately & fairly. Sadly the nursing profession does not have the appetite to fight for a better salary: we allowed our perfectly affordable pension to be destroyed.

    "Everyone knows that the NHS is in trouble and that the finances don’t stack up"

    A choice. Don't forget, Lansley found £22 000 000 000 down the back of the couch to fund his changes, allowing (so far) 10% of the NHS to be sold off to for-profit organisations. How many billions are being spent on Trident? I could go on all night about Tory spending projects but I won't, suffice to say this is really about choices. Part of the plan to starve the NHS of funds, sit back whilst it falls apart and then present the magic cure all: privatisation in a model similar to prisons. You watch, within 5 years you local hospital will be run by companies similar to G4S and their ilk.

    "...by refusing to pay nurses a fair wage, you are not just screwing over nurses, you are screwing over the NHS and its patients"

    In the Tory mindset that is a 'Buy one, get two free' offer. It will delight them. Screwing over an organisation that they believe should not exist will not be a concern.

    Sadly nursing is too apathetic to care about the NHS, their salary: just look what we did when the Gvt destroyed our pension: buggar all.

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  • Ive recently moved back to the NHS and WOW the pay packet is half what I got working in a nursing home let alone for Agency. No wonder the NHS cant get staff. Seriously considering going back to private!! :( I cant pay my bills on that pitance.

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