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RCN: Pay cap deal a ‘bitter blow’ to nurses

RCN: Pay cap deal a ‘bitter blow’ to nurses

The 1% pay cap for public sector workers including nurses should continue until April 2018, according to recommendations from a report by the National Health Service Pay Review Body (NHSPRB).


Following a statement made by health minister Lord O’Shaughnessy in parliament today (28 March), the Government in England agreed to the recommendations.

The 1% cap will continue for all NHS staff in Wales and Scotland based on the pay review body’s recommendations, it has been confirmed this week.

Government ‘pleased to announce’ 1% rise

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘The dedication and sheer hard work of our NHS staff is absolutely crucial to delivering world-class care for patients. We are pleased to announce that all NHS staff will receive a 1% pay increase.’

Between March 2010 and 2015, nurses wages increased 2.2%. However, this amounts to a 14% decrease of pay in real terms compared to the rate of inflation.

According to the report, pay increases over time experienced by individual workers who remain continuously in the same job, ‘tend to be higher’ than the increase in average pay.

‘Pay tends to increase with age, experience and job tenure,’ they said. ‘Given this, we would expect [individual pay] to be substantially higher than economy-wide earnings growth.’

MPs have already breached the Government’s 1% limit, however, as they are set to receive a 1.4% pay rise to £76,011 in the coming week.

‘A bitter blow’

Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the RCN, called the deal a ‘bitter blow’ to nurses. ‘The nursing profession is rightly held in high regard but kind words don’t pay the bills,’ she said.  

‘With this announcement, the Government will deter new people from joining the nursing profession at the very moment it is failing to retain staff and European colleagues in particular head for the door.

‘It amounts to another real-terms cut to pay packets – the Government is still refusing to keep nursing wages in line with inflation. The Government has already cut nursing pay by 14 per cent in real-terms – leaving too many struggling and turning to foodbanks and hardship grants.’

Agency ban

Davies added: ‘Many nurses rely on working extra hours for the NHS as agency staff but, from next week, they will be forced to work through a ‘bank’ and accept lower rates of pay than they get in their normal NHS job. We do not support this agency ban – nurses should not work for less than they are worth and they have a right to work in whatever way is best for them.

‘Ministers are ignoring the evidence that staff shortages put patient care and safety at risk. Tens of thousands of nursing jobs lie vacant today and the Government missed the opportunity to stop that getting worse.’


Welsh health secretary, Vaughan Gething said: ‘I remain committed to tackling the issue of low pay in Wales and will ensure the lowest earners in NHS Wales are paid a fair salary, as recommended by the Living Wage Foundation.

‘I am therefore implementing the uplift to the Living Wage – to £8.45 an hour – for all directly employed NHS staff from 1 April 2017.’

Peter Meredith-Smith, associate director of employment relations for the RCN in Wales said: ‘We are disappointed to see that NHS staff in Wales, who are bearing the brunt of relentless frontline pressures, have yet again been awarded a pay rise that is below inflation.

This means the significant and continuous erosion of the wages of NHS staff and our members that has occurred over several years persists’.

However, the RCn in Wales ‘commended’ the Welsh Government for honouring the recommendations of the NHS Pay Review Body, and working towards a unified pay structure for the NHS across the UK.

NHS Pay Review Body recommendations: 

• ‘We recommend a 1% increase to all Agenda for Change pay points from 1 April 2017 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

• We recommend a 1% increase to the High Cost Area Supplement minimum and maximum payments.

• We recommend that pay point 1 in Northern Ireland is adjusted so it is above the 2017/18 level of the National Living Wage.

• The Health Departments in England, Wales and Northern Ireland should ensure that annual pay awards do not have unintended consequences in reducing the take-home pay of staff whose pay award causes them to cross pension contribution thresholds.’

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The 1% pay cap for public sector workers including nurses should continue until April 2018, according to recommendations from a report by the National Health Service Pay Review Body (NHSPRB).