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Pay on rise but total earnings stuck in rut

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The basic salary of nurses in England is increasing but overall earnings are not, data on NHS earnings has suggested.

The average basic salary for a qualified nurse was £26,200 in July–September last year, a £100 increase on the previous quarter, according to figures released by the NHS Information Centre.

But average total earnings remained the same as in the previous quarter at £30,200.

HCA average basic salary increased by £100 to £14,900 but total earnings remained static at an average of £17,900.

Nicola Power, RCN research and information officer, said this might be the result of employers not paying overtime. 'We know that nurses are working more hours than previously, so it may be that they’re working more unpaid, or at a basic rate and not being paid overtime,' she said.

According to this year’s joint union evidence to the pay review body, 57% of staff in acute trusts and 59% in PCTs regularly work unpaid hours. Nurses are likely to see a much bigger rise in the next set of figures, which will cover October to December, as most received their 2007–2008 pay increase at the end of the year.

In contrast Royal Chesterfield Hospital NHS Foundation Trust was last week forced to defend itself after it was revealed it had paid more than £121.10 an hour for an agency nurse, following a Freedom of Information request by the Conservatives.

A trust spokesperson said it had to spend the money on a senior sister in its A&E department, because it was short-staffed on Christmas Day. ‘Under the circumstances, the trust is satisfied it was the right decision to make to maintain safe levels of staffing for seriously ill patients,’ she said.

Royal Berkshire Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which was also criticised, said it supplied incorrect information to the Conservatives by mistake. The amount paid to agency staff was £20.23, not the £120 quoted in reports.

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