“Nurses do deserve a pay increase, but these are not normal times”, said health minister, Philip Dunne MP, on Tuesday (January 31).
Dunne was responding to shadow health minister Justin Madders, who said in a parliamentary debate that the government had made the wrong choice to remove the NHS bursary for nursing students in England.
The debate was sponsored by Catherine McKinnell MP and was a response to a petition set up by member of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), Danielle Tiplady, last September.
The petition demanded an end to NHS staff pay restraint. It garnered more than 22,000 signatures in 10 days and eventually over 105,390 signatures.
The end to student nursing bursaries this year was confirmed by the governemnt last July. Moreover, a 1% cap on nurses pay has been in place since 2010, which has since fallen by more than 14% in real terms.
However, Dunne defended the government and said that there are more nurses on wards now than in 2010.
MPs spoke about how nurses feel devalued whereas they should be rewarded for what they do.
RCN chief executive and general secretary, Janet Davies, said: 'The Minister of State for Health, Philip Dunne MP, recognised the need to pay staff fairly, but said this must not come at the cost of current staffing levels.
'This is a false economy, because investing in NHS staff today will have benefits for the future workforce and patient care.
'The debate has drawn attention to our cause and I am committed to maintain this momentum as our fight for fair pay continues.'
Dunne’s claim that the average nursing salary is £32,000 is “misleading”, Davies added. She said that £26,360 is a more accurate figure because even though most nurses can be classified in bands 5-9, most are at band 5.
MPs who participated in the debate included Dan Poulter, Richard Fuller and Andrew Selous.
The RCN’s ‘Scrap the Cap’ campaign has asked the government to:
- Scrap the 1% a pay cap
- Award NHS staff with an above-inflation pay increase
- Return to UK-wide pay rate in the NHS
The NHS Pay Review Body is expected to submit its report on nurses' pay by the end of February.