UK nurses say pay cap is "bitter blow"

29 March 2017

UK nursing media are reporting nursing's disappointment at a one per cent capped pay rise for NHS nurses in England, Scotland and Wales.

The Royal College of Nurses (RCN) had run a 'Scrap the Cap' campaign, including a more than 100,000-signature petition, in the lead-up to the National Health Service Pay Review Body making its recommendation to the government. 

But the government announced on 28 March that it would accept the one per cent pay increase recommendation for NHS nurses in England from the NHS Pay Review Body. The Nursing Standard reported that the same amount had already been confirmed for NHS nurses in Scotland and Wales and a decision was expected shortly in Northern Ireland.

In a statement, RCN chief executive Janet Davies said the government decision on keeping the one per cent pay cap was a "bitter blow" to nursing staff across England. "The nursing profession is rightly held in high regard but kind words don’t pay the bills."

She said the RCN campaigned hard for an above-inflation pay increase but the continuation of the cap meant pay would lag behind the cost of living for the sixth year in a row. She said the successive pay caps amounted in real terms to a cut to pay packets of about 14 per cent. Also that it would deter new people from joining the profession at a time the NHS was failing to retain staff and European colleagues in particular (post-Brexit) were "heading for the door".

The Nursing Standard reported that the Pay Review Body had considered a nil pay increase because of "evidence of serious affordability pressures, no significant nationwide recruitment and retention issues related to pay, as well as suggestions that reducing workload pressures could have a positive impact on staff morale".

"However, there is a consensus among all evidence providers that the negative impact on staff morale of a pay award below one per cent is not worth the relatively small financial benefit, even if this flowed through to increases in staffing levels as opposed to reducing deficits," argued the Body in making its decision. 

The chief secretary to the Treasury David Gauke, when confirming on 28 March the one per cent pay rise for NHS nurses and public servants in other sectors, said: "It is always important to recognise the amazing work undertaken every day by our armed forces, doctors and dentists and NHS staff. The settlement for these key workforces protects jobs and helps repair the public finances."

He said the OBR (Office for Budget Responsibility) had forecast that the current pay policy would protect approximately 200,000 jobs across the UK.




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