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Nurses working equivalent of one day a week for free, claims report

Salary has fallen by 20% in real terms since 2010 for most nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, says London Economics analysis

Salary has fallen by 20% in real terms since 2010 for most nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, says London Economics analysis

Nurses are working the equivalent of one day a week for free according to a new analysis on pay – a situation that has been labelled an economic ‘disgrace’.

In a report commissioned by the RCN, researchers at consultancy London Economics found the salary of most nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland had fallen by 20% in real terms since 2010. Based on a typical five-day week, this is the equivalent of working a day for free.

In Scotland, nurses saw a 16% fall in pay in real terms over the same time period, the analysis found.

Salary has fallen by 20% in real terms since 2010 for most nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, says London Economics analysis

Illustration of working one day for free a week
Picture: iStock

Nurses are working the equivalent of one day a week for free according to a new analysis on pay – a situation that has been labelled an economic ‘disgrace’.

In a report commissioned by the RCN, researchers at consultancy London Economics found the salary of most nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland had fallen by 20% in real terms since 2010. Based on a typical five-day week, this is the equivalent of working a day for free.

In Scotland, nurses saw a 16% fall in pay in real terms over the same time period, the analysis found.

Food banks for nurses is a ‘sorry state of affairs’

The researchers said nurses at the top of bands 5 and 6, which make up around a third of the workforce, would need a nominal pay rise of 45% by 2024-25 to restore their salaries to 2010-11 levels.

‘It’s a sorry state of affairs that we think if NHS trusts can provide food banks for nurses, then that will guarantee patient safety,’ said Dr Gavan Conlon, who led the research.

‘The fact that we are even talking about food banks for NHS workers is justification enough and there should be a very significant pay rise. From an economic perspective it’s a disgrace.’

Illustration of empty purse
Picture: iStock

Dr Conlon explained that money spent by the government on a 10% increase to Agenda for Change pay contracts would be easily recouped, with 81% redeemed through tax receipts, increased retention, money saved on international recruitment and a lower amount of student loan write-offs.

Reasons why nurses are leaving the health service

Around 32,000 nurses are quitting the NHS per year, at least in part due to erosion of living standards, with many leaving in favour of better paid jobs with a better work-life balance.

The researchers claim the cost of recruiting a single overseas nurse is 2.4 times the cost of giving a 17.3% pay rise to a ‘typical nurse’ – £16,900 compared with £7,100.

Meanwhile the cost of hiring agency nurses is three times more than the cost of matching a pay rise of 5% above inflation, costing around £21,300 compared with £7,100.

Economy will not recover ‘until we pay nurses more’

Nurse counting pennies in purse

The report comes amid the RCN balloting on industrial action, with around 300,000 members being asked if they are willing to go on strike over poor pay.

Dr Conlon said the government ‘has no choice’ but to increase pay as the alternative is more departures, longer waiting lists in the NHS and a decline in the health of the whole labour market.

He said the research suggested ‘the economy is on its knees and will never get off its knees until we pay nurses more’.

Government has refused to act on pay, says union

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said: ‘This exploitation of nursing staff cannot be tolerated any longer.

‘Ministers have stubbornly resisted the requirement to address the workforce crisis, including paying nursing fairly, and have instead rejected any opportunity to act.’

The Department of Health and Social Care has been approached for comment.


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