THE RCN (Royal College of Nursing) called for a pay rise of ‘inflation plus 5%’ for members over the weekend as it called on new Tory health and social care secretary Steve Barclay to award nurses ‘an immediate and substantial pay rise’.
While the Tories are proposing to impose a 3% rise on NHS staff, in a recent poll RCN members voted in favour of strike action to pursue their pay claim.
RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive, Pat Cullen said: ‘A political vacuum now exists at a time when nursing staff providing care and treatment against all odds face unrelenting pressure and a workforce crisis.
‘Patient care and safety is being jeopardised and a cost-of-living disaster is forcing many of those same staff to turn to food banks opened by their employers in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.’
Carol Popplestone, RCN Chair of Council, said the imminent decision on NHS pay ‘will send the first and greatest signal on the relationship Mr Barclay wants with his health and care workforce’.
She continued: ‘We urge him to listen and then act. Our members face incredible hardship – struggling to pay the bills and going to food banks – and it is in no small part down to a decade of pay cuts by government.
‘This dire situation is driving people out of nursing and adding to the staffing crisis. His action in the next few days can begin to turn the tide for these people who give so much of themselves to their work and the nation’s health.’
RCN England Director, Patricia Marquis, said: ‘After a decade of real terms pay cuts and in the midst of a cost-of-living disaster, this year’s pay award needs to be a big one – 5% above the level of inflation to make people feel valued, prevent more from leaving and keep patients safe. This must be fully funded with additional investment from the government.
‘A pay rise of only three per cent will do nothing to stem the tide. The new Health Secretary must rise above the political mayhem engulfing government and indicate his support for nursing with an immediate and substantial pay rise, already three months overdue.’
On Saturday, Unison said it had written to Barclay demanding to see the as yet unpublished recommendations of the NHS pay review body and warned of strike action if progress is not made quickly.
Unison head of health, Sara Gorton, said: ‘The government’s leadership vacuum is no excuse for further delay on putting NHS pay right. The government is already months behind its own timetable.
‘Surging costs are having a terrible effect on staff and helping them should be top of the priority list for the new secretary of state, not an afterthought.’
In a letter to Barclay, Gorton added: ‘The ambitious targets to reduce waiting times and remove the elective backlog will not be met without urgent pay action from you to prevent people leaving the health service.
‘NHS staff cannot afford to wait for the leadership matters in your party to be settled before announcing your pay position. I will be talking to other unions about coordinating our plans, including consultative ballot options over inaction.’
TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: ‘The government may be in chaos, but ministers must not forget the cost of living crisis facing workers. Britain needs a pay rise now.’