Nurse holds a sign outside of Downing Street, Nurses are threatening to strike after being offered a 1% pay rise by the government (Photo: NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Nurses’ average pay is less half that of an MP, according to the most recent data.
As nurses vote to strike for the first time ever in NHS history, allegedly calling for a 17.6% pay rise, the government has continued to push back, claiming it would cost £9 billion if applied to all staff aside from doctors and dentists.
Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said on Thursday that it was “difficult to judge” if nurses were currently being paid enough.
He told Sky News that it was not his area of expertise, but he believed their job was a “vocation”.
Acknowledging that a starting salary for a nurse is between £27,000 to the mid-£30,000s, he asked: “Is that enough? Who can put a value on care like that?”
But, when asked by Times Radio if the 17% increase was appropriate, he said it was “remarkably high”, claiming that the NHS pay review body had already given 1 million NHS workers an increase which worked out to a 4.5% rise for most nurses.
He did not directly answer questions about if nurses should be paid as much as politicians, claiming it was an “unfair question”. He added: “Some people wouldn’t want to pay politicians anything.”
How does nurses pay compare to politicians?
The Royal College of Nursing said that in 2021 the average annual salary of an NHS nurse is £33,384.
The average MP salary as of April 1 this year is £84,144.
Most politicians who are then appointed to a cabinet role receive an extra £67,505 according to the parliament website.
More junior ministers can receive between £22,375 and £31,680 on top of their MP salaries, too.
The government ended the free staff parking scheme that ran through the pandemic for NHS staff who drive to work.
According to the Mirror back in April, a worker in England now needs to pay on average around £1,000 a year to leave their cars at work.
Meanwhile, MPs can expense their travel.
The Daily Mail reported in May that NHS staff often went without food on long shifts because of the expensive food and inflexible hours, with a dish of pasta costing £7.25 at one London hospital.
The same report compared it to prices in the Commons Members’ Dining Room, where roast rump of beef dinner, with sides, comes to £5.67.
This all shines a new light on a profession the UK was particularly reliant on during the peak of the pandemic.
Striking nurses told HuffPost UK that there’s a higher demand on their services as they cope with the Covid backlog, but little monetary reward for their hard work.
Analysis from London Economics found nurses’ real-term earnings fell by 20% since 2010.
However, the cabinet minister Heaton Harris repeatedly tried to justify the government’s inaction this week. He told Radio 4′s Today programme that nurses did receive a 3% pay rise last year, while the rest of the public sector did not get anything.
"Nurses did get a 3% pay rise last year when the rest of the public sector did not get anything"
Chris Heaton Harris, NI Secretary, tells @MarthaKearney pay rises must be set in the 'context of the wider national situation' for the economy.https://t.co/ifTfnfWhDT | #R4Todaypic.twitter.com/Hned46k0EI
— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) November 10, 2022
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.