Nurses are working the equivalent of one day a week for free, research finds

A nurse on a hospital ward (File picture)  (PA Archive)
A nurse on a hospital ward (File picture) (PA Archive)

Nurses have seen their real-terms pay fall by a fifth in a decade, according to new analysis.

Researchers from London Economics, commissioned by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), found that nursing staff effectively work the equivalent of one day a week for free.

They found that in real terms, based on a five-day week, the salary of an experienced nurse has fallen by 20 per cent since 2010-11.

The analysis comes just days before the RCN announce the results of a strike ballot for its 300,000 members as part of a long-running pay dispute. The union has rejected the £1,400 pay rise already given to NHS staff and demanded a pay rise of 5 per cent above inflation to help its members cope the cost of living crisis.

Experienced nurses across England, Wales and Northern Ireland would need to receive a nominal pay rise of 45 per cent by 2024-25 to restore their real-terms salaries to 2010-2011 levels, according to the research.

The London Economics research looked at the pay of workers under the Agenda for Change contract.

Dr Gavan Conlon, who oversaw the research, said that recruiting staff from overseas cost £16,900 than retaining a nurse. He claimed that using an agency worker costs an extra £21,300 per year.

Around 32,000 nurses are quitting the NHS per year at least in part because of the erosion of living standards, leaving tens of thousands of vacancies, he said.

Earlier this month, London nurses told the Standard that they had reached the “point of desperation” and were struggling with rising energy bills.

But former Health Secretary Therese Coffey, who departed the post earlier this week as part of a Cabinet reshuffle, indicated NHS staff would not get a higher pay rise than the £1,400 they had previously been offered.

Speaking to the Standard earlier this month, she said that she felt the Government “had acted” to help NHS staff struggling with the cost of living crisis.

Asked about nurses leaving to go abroad, Ms Coffey said: “It is their choice of course if they want to do that, but then we also have an open route for people to come into this country who are professional staff”.

Separate polling of 1,700 members of the public conducted by the RCN found that nearly half (46 per cent) had avoided using NHS services in the past month. Half of those surveyed cited long waits as a reason while 42 per cent cited the level of pressure on the NHS.

NHS workers in other unions, including ambulance staff, are also being balloted for strikes, threatening a huge outbreak of industrial action later in the year.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson: “We hugely value the contribution of our hardworking nurses, which is why we are giving over one million NHS workers a pay rise of at least £1,400 this year. NHS staff also received a 3% pay rise last year, increasing nurses’ pay by £1,000 on average, despite a public sector pay freeze.

“We’re also recruiting more staff, with over 9,100 more nurses working across the NHS compared to last year, and we are on track to meet our commitment to deliver 50,000 more nurses by 2024.”RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen said: “Patients deserve better from their politicians. Despite nursing staff working increasingly long hours and doing all they can, safe and effective care is being undermined by the failure of governments to act.”