Fears of nursing ‘exodus’ unless NHS workers get decent pay rise, RCN warns
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Nurses’ leaders are stepping up calls for a decent pay rise for NHS workers, warning of an “exodus” from the profession if wage rates are not increased.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said a low-level pay rise similar to that given to other public sector workers last year will not prevent nursing staff leaving after the pandemic, leaving patients to “pay the price”.
The Chancellor was urged to announce in next week’s Budget that NHS budgets will be boosted for the explicit purpose of increasing staff pay levels.
The RCN said the pay of an experienced nurse has fallen by 15.3% in real terms over the past 10 years and they would take home less than £10 extra a week if the Chancellor replicates recent pay awards.
Nursing staff are exhausted and morale is on the floor – too many are telling me they fear an exodus of their colleagues once the pandemic pressure truly abates
A pay increase of 12.5% this year for nursing and other NHS staff would increase the wage bill in England by £4.25 billion, said the RCN in a submission to the Treasury ahead of the Budget.
The RCN argued that small increases will not be enough to support hospitals and other parts of the NHS to retain staff, warning that the quality of patient care is already adversely impacted by tens of thousands of nursing vacancies in England.
A survey of RCN members last year revealed that more than one in three were thinking of leaving the profession, with many citing pay as the main reason.
Dame Donna Kinnair, RCN general secretary, said: “The Chancellor has a choice at next week’s Budget. He can demonstrate that he is listening to NHS staff by identifying the multibillion-pound sum needed for a significant pay award. Or he can offer more warm words.
“An experienced nurse, who might have worked 10 or 20 years in the NHS, deserves more than a few extra pounds per week after this brutal year. They are already worse off than 10 years ago, contrary to claims from the Prime Minister and others.
“Nursing staff are exhausted and morale is on the floor – too many are telling me they fear an exodus of their colleagues once the pandemic pressure truly abates.
The country is already tens of thousands of nurses short and it is patients who pay a price for that
“The eyes of the NHS are on the Government. It must show it is prepared to rise to this challenge. The country is already tens of thousands of nurses short and it is patients who pay a price for that.”
The NHS Pay Review Body is expected to make recommendations to the Government later this year.
The RCN said the salary for experienced nursing staff of £30,615 in 2020-21 would increase to £31,380 under a 2.5% pay award in 2021-22, raising weekly take-home pay by an estimated £9 from £426 to £435.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Our dedicated NHS staff have worked tirelessly every day of this Covid-19 pandemic, and they will rightly be exempt from the temporary pause on pay rises for public sector workers.
“Over one million NHS staff are currently benefiting from multi-year pay deals, agreed with trade unions, which has delivered a pay rise of over 12% for newly qualified nurses.
“We continue to listen to our valued staff and trade unions to ensure everyone is rewarded fairly and, when we receive them, we will consider the recommendations of the independent NHS Pay Review Body.”
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