‘Inflation reaching a 40-year high is yet another reason nursing staff are in dire need of a pay rise,’ the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has highlighted, responding to rising inflation rates announced by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) this week (22 June).
The UK government is expected to announce what pay rise NHS staff in England will be awarded for 2022/23 soon.
The Department of Health and Social Care identified an ‘affordable headline pay award of up to 3%’ in evidence submitted in February to the NHS Pay Review Body, which advises the government on pay for NHS staff on Agenda for Change contracts.
But this would represent a real-terms pay cut, as the ONS statistics announced on 22 June show the inflation rate for May 2022 rose to 9.1%.
RCN general secretary and chief executive, Pat Cullen, said: ‘Inflation reaching a 40-year high is yet another reason that nursing staff are in dire need of a pay rise.’
She said: ‘Pay is a crucial factor in recruiting and retaining the nursing workforce,’ warning that RCN’s most recent survey showed more than 80% of shifts faced staff shortages, ‘putting patient care at risk.’
The RCN is calling for a 5% above inflation pay rise for nursing staff, but it was reported on Monday that Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Simon Clarke, had effectively ruled out an above inflation pay increase.
He said: ‘Public-sector pay discipline really matters here,’ national press reported. ‘We have an inflation problem in this country. If we don’t want that problem to either intensify or prolong itself, then we need to be sensible around pay awards.
‘If we give awards which are above inflation in this landscape, then we are in a really difficult place in terms of bringing down inflation, which in turn obviously is driving the cost of living.’
Ms Cullen said: ‘Following over a decade of real-terms pay cuts, nursing – that makes up over half of NHS staff – are financially propping up our health and care services.
‘They are overworked and under pressure, alongside being underpaid, and this puts patients at risk.
‘A pay rise that goes significantly above inflation is crucial to the recruitment and retention of skilled nursing staff.’
RCN members will ‘have a chance to speak up for their profession, and their patients,’ following the UK government’s pay award announcement, Ms Cullen has promised.
Unison head of health, Sara Gorton, said: ‘Essential workers aren’t being offered big pay increases. It’s not wages causing inflation to spiral.
‘Ministers must realise the damage that will be done to the NHS if health staff don’t receive a decent pay rise this year.
‘Without one that protects against rising prices, many will quit for better paid and less stressful work elsewhere, leaving patients struggling to access care.’
Earlier this month, the Scottish government made a 5% pay increase offer to NHS Scotland staff on Agenda for Change contracts.
A group of 13 healthcare unions have called on the government to implement an ‘inflation-busting pay rise’ and an ‘urgent’ retention package for NHS staff and nurses in 2022/23.
In May, RCN members met with London’s mayor Sadiq Khan for talks about the ‘current nursing workforce crisis,’ with the rising cost of living and staff shortages at the forefront of discussions.