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Nurses must come out fighting on key issues such as pay and patients


Nursing academics have painted a gloomy picture for the profession over the next five years, in the wake of the general election, including further pay restraint, pressure and organisational change.

In particular, they claimed the Tory government would continue to try and hold down public sector wages as the economy struggled to improve.

“I think nursing is going to be under a huge amount of pressure”

Anne Marie Rafferty

One academic also warned that pledges to grow the community nursing workforce may be met by supplementing the figures with larger numbers of support posts and predicted that nurses would find it increasingly difficult to carry out the “pastoral side” to their role.

The academics called on the profession to continue its fight for fair pay, adding that it needed to become more involved with policy making decisions at a commissioning level and must ensure future organisational change was driven by patient outcomes.

King's College London

Anne Marie Rafferty

Anne Marie Rafferty, professor of nursing policy at King’s College London, claimed the economic challenges still facing the country painted a “pretty bleak” picture for public sector workers under the new government.

“Whether by stealth or other means I think nursing is going to be under a huge amount of pressure….The downward pressure is going to be on salaries and probably headcount,” she told Nursing Times.

Her comments follow last year’s dispute between the coalition and unions, after ministers refused the 1% blanket pay rise recommended by the independent NHS pay review body.

“The nursing profession needs to not have a closed mind to change”

Fiona Ross

Ahead of the election, the Conservative party made no pledges to commit to pay rises, even those at least in line with inflation.

Professor Rafferty said: “Pay is certainly not going to rise. Who knows, I’m not predicting this, but could we end up in a position where pay declines?

“As in [the case of] Ireland and Spain and many countries impacted by austerity where actual salaries are cuts. How else do you pay the bills,” she said.

“You either raise taxes – which this government doesn’t seem to be keen to do – or you’ve got to find savings from other areas. And given salaries is one of the biggest areas, do you start to saw away at public sector salaries,” she asked.

Professor Rafferty added that she believed nurses would be able to tolerate pay restraint more easily if the government applied it an “equitable and transparent manner”.

She pointed to the better deals received by other professions, such as doctors and dentists, that sit outside the Agenda for Change pay framework.

Professor Fiona Ross, research professor at Kingston University and St George’s, University of London, said she also did not expect nurses’ pay to rise under the new government.

“The time for nurses to do the pastoral part of their role is going to get more and more difficult”

Carol Haigh

She said nurses must use their “power and contribution [to the NHS]” to fight for better wages over the coming years.

Professor Ross also predicted there would be a “rapid” move towards NHS services being provided by private companies, but that nurses should not automatically resist this.

“The nursing profession needs to not have a closed mind to change, but to be really clear that when change is proposed that the outcomes will benefit patients and [to ensure] that the outcomes won’t  increase the gap in equality that we have,” she said.

Referring to the Conservative’s plan to improve access to primary care and the move towards better integration of services, Professor Ross predicted this would inevitably involve hospital closures.

Kingston University and St George's, University of London

Professor Fiona Ross

She said nurses should embrace this if it benefited patients and “mustn’t fall into the trap of always trying to save bricks and mortar”.

Meanwhile, Professor Carol Haigh, professor of nursing at Manchester Metropolitan University, cautioned that the Conservative pledge to boost the community nursing workforce may not necessarily result in a significant increase for registrant posts.

“Until we know what they mean by nurse, we can’t comment that that’s a good thing,” she said. “[This] could mean anything from a healthcare assistant to someone with a master’s in nursing.”

“You can’t just talk numbers, you have to talk education, skill mix, occupational level and the expertise of these nurses,” she told Nursing Times.

Professor Haigh also predicted frontline nurses and managers would also have to deal with increasing demand to offer advice and support to patients.

Manchester Metropolitan University

Professor Carol Haigh

She said Tory austerity measures meant charities – often the first point of contact for patients – were under pressure, meaning patients would come to rely on nurses even more.

“As we become increasingly target-driven, the time for nurses to do the pastoral part of their role is going to get more and more difficult,” she warned.

In response, a Department of Health spokeswoman said NHS staff “are our greatest asset and we know they are working extremely hard”.

“That’s why, despite tough financial times, we will increase the NHS budget by £8bn in real terms and over a million NHS staff, including nurses, will get a pay rise this year with a better deal for the lowest paid,” she said.

She added that the Conservative party had committed to health service leader’s five-year plan for the NHS – the Five-Year Forward View – which suggested NHS pay will need to stay “broadly in line with private sector wages”.

Election 2015 logo short

The spokeswoman said official NHS accounts show the use of the private sector was six pence in every pound the NHS spends, an increase of one penny since May 2010.

“We will continue to make sure we have enough nurses and other NHS staff to meet patients’ needs and further consider how best to recognise and reward high performance,” she added.


Readers' comments (28)

  • Nice to know that the nursing academics are willing to just idly sit by commenting on the situation rather than trying to speak out and fight against it.

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  • Well done 6.32pm - I absolutely agree. The academics in the UK have done nothing to improve the quality of nurse education or indeed the quality of nursing.

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  • Fight. Strike. We must do all we can to defend against privatisation and the decimating of our hard earned wages. Cameron and his chums wouldn't survive 5 minutes in our various roles.
    Don't let these toffs who despise us and the NHS ruin the service we provide.

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  • How very clever of them to state exactly what all us non-academic have been saying for years.
    Well done girls. Looking forward to your next pronouncement of the bleedin' obvious.

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  • We know what's going to happen. We do not need an academic to tell us. The next five years will probably be the worst. I would like to know we are supported by NHS colleagues, but last time we were on 'strike' I nearly got knocked down by a consultant who did know think nurses needed a 1% pay rise!! The fight is on ladies and gentleman, here we go. Good luck. By the way, NO, we should not be open minded and allow the private sector to infiltrate the NHS.

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  • 16 May 2015, Saturday

    We deserve. Who we voted this election. The consequence is overworked, underpayed, destitute STAFF NURSES. Equals poor nursing care.

    Let me explain, a Staff Nurse Net Pay a month is approximately £1,600.00 The person pays 600 or more for rent or mortgage. He or she supports family £350 for food and groceries, £200 for petrol, £300 for utilities gas, electric, water, telephones, tv license. £150 for something else like your driver's license, mot, insurance, NMC professional registration fee, child daycare, council tax, car park permit which you can pay by direct debit monthly depending on your capacity to pay. Family amusement is not included. So you end up doing bank shifts just to pay for the inflation rate every year including value added tax. Resulting to longer hours of work, less family time leads to broken family.

    Is this what you want to happen? This current government will NOT do anything for working families especially for NHS STAFF NURSES.

    Suggestion to the current government: If they are listening.

    1) Stop the NMC from raising the professional registration fee of nurses and midwives.

    2) A cap on rental increase. Stop the landlords and housing association from raising rent.

    3) Make basic consumer goods such as food more affordable.

    4) Stop the utility companies from raising monthly electric, gas and water bill to customers.

    5) Stop the bus and rail companies from raising ticket fares.

    6) Stop the petrol companies from raising petrol prices.

    Are you listening Mr. PM? Are you listening MPs to your constituents? Current government are you going to take action? Or let us suffer for the next five years. GB is this what you really want. Then let us suffer for more.... waiting times, poor health care and less public service.

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  • Completely pointless tirade against academics in some of these comments. What happened - did you get poor marks in your essays and use this as a way of feeling better about yourselves?

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  • I have worked for the nhs for 33 years and pleased to say I can get out in 4 years. I don't know who voted for the conservatives but I'm sure it wasn't the public sector workers who are always punished. I now have a degree at 51 years old because I could not get a band 6 without I now earn less money than I did before the nhs will be destroyed in the next 5 years with more experienced nurses leaving the profession.

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  • Not a pointless tirade at all. The drive to more and more academics in nursing, and "academic nurses" has occurred at the same time as a plunge in the reputation of the profession over the last few years. Doubtless some would say a causal link can not be proven. Bit of a coincidence tho'. In this situation also important, because in the past it is nurses' poularity with the population at large which has protected us from the worst ravages of govt. policy.

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  • We all have a part to play as an academic or a front line worker- I am both and feel I can contribute in many difference ways. In my view it is middle managers hidden within the NHS, PHE,NHS England who have huge salaries but many people including the organisations for which they work who do not what they do but they continue to get pay rises, bonuses and protected pensions and no registrations to uphold so they are not accountable.These are the ones we should be targeting not the silly politicians who do not know what we do on an every day basis. I challenge you all to seek out those middle managers, check out their pay scale and bring them to account.

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