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Unions urge PM to speed up nurse pay rise

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Health unions have said the Prime Minister must grant nurses an early pay rise or risk them leaving the profession.

Healthcare workers have been told they must wait until the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB), which advises the government on Agenda for Change pay, has submitted its pay recommendations in May before they receive a salary boost.

But the heads of the RCN, Unison and the Royal College of Midwives have written to Boris Johnson warning ‘demoralised and traumatised’ staff may otherwise consider leaving the health service without a significant wage increase soon.

It comes as the unions published a joint report to the PRB outlining independent data from thinktank London Economics showing that a 10% pay rise is affordable for the Treasury and would bring about an economic boost to hospitality, retail and other struggling sectors in communities across the UK.

The joint letter sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson last Friday said: ‘We are calling on you to speed up this process and grant a fully funded, early and significant wage increase now, without any needless further delay.

‘The majority of the public want this to happen, and it makes economic sense as this would provide a much-needed boost for businesses including hospitality and retail when the lockdown begins to ease and we have released independent economic analysis on this today.

‘A significant increase would help staff feel appreciated, assist with much-needed recruitment and encourage health workers to think again about leaving the NHS,’ it added.

The letter also highlighted the pressures staff were under, facing ‘an ever-growing queue of patients’ and covering for colleagues ‘off sick with Covid’ or who were ‘simply exhausted’.

In December, health secretary Matt Hancock wrote to the PRB stressing that its pay recommendations should consider the ‘affordability of pay awards’ in the ‘extremely challenging fiscal and economic context’, although he acknowledged the importance of pay to staff retention.

Nurses on Agenda for Change contracts were always due for a pay rise after spring 2021/22 when the current three-year pay deal ends, although unions have repeatedly called for it to be pushed forward.

In his spending review, the chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that NHS workers including nurses would not be part of a public sector pay freeze this year.

The letter to Boris Johnson in full

Dear Prime Minister,

The critical situation everyone dreaded is now upon the NHS.

Hospitals are stretched to the limit with surging Covid admissions, ambulances are waiting for hours to hand over the sick and the risk that intensive care units could soon run out of beds is now all too real.

Staff are also having to tackle the ever-growing queue of patients waiting to start treatment.

The chief medical officer professor Chris Whitty has admitted that trusts are facing the most dangerous situation anyone can remember.

There’s no guarantee either that our health service has hit its winter or virus peak, which means worse may yet come.

Staff are determined, but may end up burned out or leaving the NHS if they are expected to continue with such an excessive workload and shortages of staff.

They are demoralised and traumatised, with some struggling to get through their shifts.

Staff shortages mean our health workers are having to cover for multiple colleagues who are off sick with Covid. Or simply exhausted by the demands of working on intensive care units full to capacity and of patients dying.

The chancellor of the exchequer has promised health staff a pay rise. But not until after the NHS pay review body has submitted its report in May.

We are calling on you to speed up this process and grant a fully funded, early and significant wage increase now, without any needless further delay.

The majority of the public want this to happen, and it makes economic sense as this would provide a much-needed boost for businesses including hospitality and retail when the lockdown begins to ease and we have released independent economic analysis on this today.

More importantly, a significant increase would help staff feel appreciated, assist with much-needed recruitment and encourage health workers to think again about leaving the NHS.

This is about protecting the health service now and for many years to come. The future of the country’s health and that of the NHS is in your hands.

Now is the time to do the right thing. To show our health workers the government cares as much about us as it does about our patients.

Yours sincerely

Christina McAnea
Unison general secretary elect

Donna Kinnair
Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary

Gill Walton
Royal College of Midwives chief executive