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Nurses’ pay cut by £6,000 since Tories came to power

New research shows a decade-long blow to nurses' pay, less than a day after the government offered them a "paltry" three per cent pay rise
NHS workers are considering action in response to the government's pay plans. Image: Pexels

Real-terms cuts mean nurses’ annual pay has shrunk by more than £6,000 in the last decade, according to new research.

The analysis was published as unions slammed the government’s offer of a three per cent pay increase for NHS staff.

Nurses are considering action in response to the “paltry” offer — worth around £1,000 per year to the average nurse in England and backdated to April 2021.

Ministers had originally recommended a pay increase of just one per cent, despite the exceptional strain on health care workers during the Covid-19 crisis.

But GMB analysis showed pay cuts have hammered the incomes of NHS staff since the Conservatives came to power a decade ago.

“After ten years of pay cuts, a pandemic that saw NHS staff put all their lives at risk and now a pay offer from the government that amounts to taking yet more cash from their pockets – it’s no wonder morale among NHS workers is rock bottom,” said Rehena Azam, GMB national secretary.

“It can’t be right that our health workers have had their pay slashed by thousands, and it can’t be right that their reward for their pandemic efforts is yet more cuts to their pay. 

“GMB will be recommending members turn down this paltry pay offer. Ministers need to think again.” 

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The union’s analysis showed NHS workers had lost up to £9,000 a year in the past decade, including real-terms cuts of £7,500 from the pay packets of midwives, £3,500 for 999 call handlers and £1,000 from cleaners. 

The Treasury expects inflation to be 3.7 per cent by the end of 2021, meaning ministers are “knowingly cutting” salaries for experienced nurses by a further £200+ in real-terms despite the three per cent pay increase, according to the Royal College of Nursing.

“Hospitals and other parts of the NHS are struggling to recruit nurses and healthcare support workers,” said Pat Cullen, general secretary and chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing.

“The government has been warned that many more are on the verge of leaving. With [this] decision, ministers have made it even harder to provide safe care to patients. This announcement is light on detail. It must be fully-funded with additional monies for the NHS and ring-fenced for the workforce bill.

“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.”

Speaking in the House of Commons, health minister Helen Whately sparked anger after suggesting the decision on NHS pay had been pushed back. But Sajid Javid, health secretary, announced the three per cent increase hours later.

Confirming the planned pay rise, Javid said: “NHS staff are rightly receiving a pay rise this year despite the wider public sector pay pause, in recognition of their extraordinary efforts. 

“We asked the independent pay review bodies for their recommendations and I’m pleased to accept them in full, with a three per cent pay rise for all staff in scope, from doctors and nurses to paramedics and porters.

“We will back the NHS as we focus our efforts on getting through this pandemic and tackling the backlog of other health problems that has built up. I will continue to do everything I can to support all those in our health service who are working so tirelessly to care for patients.”

But Rachel Harrison, national officer for the GMB, said the government had “failed spectacularly”.

“This was the opportunity for government to turn their clapping into genuine recognition,” she said.

“NHS staff are on their knees – exhausted, fatigued and anxious – as we look set to enter another wave of the covid pandemic,” said Rachel Harrison, national officer for the GMB. 

“Hospitals and ambulance services are operating under extreme pressures due to rising demand and staffing shortages. Now, rather than focussing on staff welfare they are being advised to enter the workplace against self-isolation advice and now given this frankly appalling pay offer which is yet another real terms cut.

“NHS workers know their worth and so do the public – shame on the government who don’t.”