Nurses’ Pay Cut By Instalments Is ‘Not Acceptable’

Nurses marching in Nottingham against cuts last September
Nurses marching in Nottingham against cuts last September

OVER ten thousand nurses have bombarded MPs with letters protesting at this year’s pay cut for nurses and other health care workers.

It comes as the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) unveils details of its consultation with members to gauge their views on this year’s below inflation pay award.

The RCN announced last month that it would consult its 400,000-strong members after the government indicated it would ignore the recommendation of the independent Pay Review Body that sets nurses’ pay and impose a below inflation pay award of 2.5 per cent to be paid in two instalments.

By staging the award in this way, it averages out at 1.9 per cent – less than half the rate of inflation.

With the average wage of a registered nurse being £24,841, this equates to a pay cut in real terms of £570 a year.

Dr Peter Carter, General Secretary of the RCN, said: ‘We have been talking with and listening to our members and they have told us that this pay cut by instalments is simply not acceptable.

‘Having endured job losses, deficit-led cuts to services and increasing workloads, nurses really are at the end of their tether. The mood out there is dark and despondent with nurses feeling under-valued and over-worked. A demoralised workforce simply cannot deliver the best for patients and is a poor advert for future recruits to the profession.

‘A worrying number of nurses are telling us this pay award is the final straw and are talking about leaving the health service for good.

‘It is not too late for the government to put this right. It can salvage some goodwill by abiding by the recommendation of the independent Pay Review Body and giving nurses their pay award in full in April, as ministers in Scotland have wisely chosen to do.’

Examples of members’ comments on this year’s pay award include:

‘Nurses are the back-bone of the NHS. We work hard and try to deliver the best quality care that we can; this often results in many of us working unpaid overtime.

‘Unfortunately our pay and treatment does not reflect this, and consequently nurses are becoming increasingly angry and frustrated; indeed the majority of my colleagues feel that that the proposed pay cut necessitates industrial action, and would even consider participating in a strike.’

‘The government’s planned staged pay award is entirely indicative of their contempt and abuse of the nursing profession. It only confirms my decision to leave behind my nursing career of 12 years and to move into one whereby I feel valued and supported.

‘I will be sorry to leave nursing as I have enjoyed working with patients but I feel that things will not get better in the job and I have had enough.’

‘I am a practice nurse who is ready to “throw the towel” in. I have 20 years nursing experience plus a long list of post registration qualifications. I have always given 100 per cent effort to my role and worked damned hard to get where I am. I am absolutely disgusted by the pay award being offered by the government. We do not feel valued and many of us are planning to leave the nursing profession completely.’

‘I felt as if we had been kicked in the teeth when I heard of the government’s decision to only give us 1.5 per cent and then to have the absolute cheek to make us wait for the next bit until November. I felt absolutely insulted. It shows no regard for what nurses do and their value.’

‘I can no longer encourage people to undergo nurse training anymore as the pay is just not on a par with other professionals. We are expected to do more for less; it is an absolute joke!’

‘It seems that nurses are not only having to prop up the trusts externally imposed deficits but also expected to take a pay cut. We have had three demos locally attracting many nurses and my feeling is that staff would be willing to take industrial action as they have had enough.’

‘I have worked for the NHS for 30 years. Never have I found staff to be so disillusioned, angry, and morale so low across all nursing specialities due to vacancy freezing, training cuts and increasing workloads.’

‘I don’t think the goodwill of nurses that has been relied on for many years can be taken for granted much longer.’

Commenting on the release of the Healthcare Commission’s (HCC) NHS Staff Survey, RCN General Secretary Dr Carter said:

‘Nurses are under enormous strain, doing more work with fewer staff, so it comes as no surprise that so many of them said they would be unhappy with their care if they were patients in their own hospital.

‘They have also been given a pay award which in real terms is a pay cut, and morale is at rock bottom.

‘For the sake of NHS staff, and the patients they care for, investment in the NHS has got to be sustained to right the wrongs that this survey has thrown into sharp relief.

‘I am deeply worried that the level of physical assaults and abuse that nurses and other healthcare workers are facing is not reducing and remains shockingly high.

‘Our own figures show that forty per-cent of nurses have been attacked or abused at work.

‘This is a real and pressing issue, and one that has to be tackled. I welcome the HCC’s call to Trusts to increase their efforts to solve this problem.

‘It is also disturbing that so many staff do not have access to appropriate hand washing facilities.

‘One hundred per cent of staff should have this.

‘We know from our own research that the number of nurses with access to showering and laundering services at work is worryingly low.

‘If we are to make any headway against MRSA and other infections these failings have got to be addressed.’