In recognition of the incredible work the NHS has done during the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK Government recently announced its most recent pay increase offer. This is the second proposed figure, as there was uproar when Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced just a 1% pay rise for NHS staff in March 2021.
The latest offer on the table is 3%, as recommended by independent NHS pay review bodies. According to the Department of Health, this will add an extra £1,000 to the annual pay of the typical nurse working in England. For support staff such as porters and cleaners, it could mean an extra £560 each year.
Unfortunately, the new proposals have gone down just as badly with nursing unions and bodies representing other NHS staff as the initial offer.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has said that the NHS pay rise will actually amounts to a real-terms cut to pay for nurses, once inflation is taken into account. It’s currently above the rate of inflation – which hit 2.5% in June, the highest in three years – but the RCN is concerned that the everyday cost of living will continue to rise past the 3% pay offer as the economy recovers from the pandemic.
This would mean that nursing staff are actually losing out, after battling through some of the most difficult months the NHS has ever faced. According to the RCN, it could leave nursing staff around £200 a year worse off when all things are considered.
The RCN recently announced a ‘summer of protest’ in reaction what it describes as a ‘below-inflation NHS pay award’. It has launched a campaign for fair pay, and is demanding a fully funded 12.5% pay rise for all nursing staff. There are also reports that unions are considering consulting their members on potential strike action.
The RCN’s chief secretary Pat Cullen recently told the Independent:
“When the Treasury expects inflation to be 3.7 per cent, ministers are knowingly cutting pay for an experienced nurse by over £200 in real terms.”
“Nursing staff will remain dignified in responding to what will be a bitter blow to many.
“But the profession will not take this lying down. We will be consulting our members on what action they would like to take next.”
How does NHS pay compare to the private sector?
A disappointingly low pay rise offer is particularly galling for NHS workers when looking at comparative pay increases in the private sector.
A recent data analysis from Nuffield Trust found that compared to 2010 and when adjusted for inflation, average earnings for healthcare workers in the private sector increased by 5%. For NHS nurses, pay is -5.2% less than it was 10 years ago when inflation is taken into account.
And according to the latest salary information from Indeed, an NHS Registered Nurse can expect a starting salary of around £27,701 a year. In the private sector, the same role typically comes with a base salary set at nearly £30,000.
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