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Union condemns potential 2% pay rise for nurses

Health Foundation suggests that the government has budgeted a 2% pay rise for NHS staff next year, and RCN says Rishi Sunak must open pay discussions

Health Foundation suggests that the government has budgeted a 2% pay rise for NHS staff next year, and RCN says Rishi Sunak must open pay discussions

A potential 2% pay rise for nurses and other healthcare workers has been condemned as NHS staff continue to strike over pay and working conditions.

The Health Foundation think tank has suggested the government has budgeted for a 2% pay rise for NHS staff next year in a bid to curb inflation, but unions have warned strikes could continue if the government imposes the pay award.

NHS workers face ‘further cut in real earnings’, says think tank

Health Foundation’s director of research

Health Foundation suggests that the government has budgeted a 2% pay rise for NHS staff next year, and RCN says Rishi Sunak must open pay discussions

Nurses picketing outside St Thomas’ Hospital in London in December 2021
Nurses picketing outside St Thomas’ Hospital in London last month.
Picture: John Houlihan

A potential 2% pay rise for nurses and other healthcare workers has been condemned as NHS staff continue to strike over pay and working conditions.

The Health Foundation think tank has suggested the government has budgeted for a 2% pay rise for NHS staff next year in a bid to curb inflation, but unions have warned strikes could continue if the government imposes the pay award.

NHS workers face ‘further cut in real earnings’, says think tank

Health Foundation’s director of research Anita Charleswood also warned the below-inflation pay award would risk further aggravating the NHS’s staffing crisis.

‘The NHS budget for next year was set by the government on the basis that health service staff would receive a 2% pay uplift in the coming pay round. This would be less than half of the Office for Budget Responsibility’s CPI inflation forecast (5.5%) and below the official forecast for earnings growth across the economy (3.5%),’ she said.

‘The result would be that NHS workers would face a further cut in real earnings. At a time of rising vacancies, it would mean NHS wages falling further behind other sectors, with risks to recruitment and retention.’

In his letter to the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) in November, Mr Barclay did not specify the 2% figure, but made it clear that any pay awards ‘must strike a careful balance’ and keep in mind the government’s ‘inflation target’.

‘[They should] recognise the vital importance of public sector workers while delivering value for the taxpayer, consider private sector pay levels, not increase the country’s debt further, and be careful not to drive prices even higher in the future,’ he wrote.

PM Rishi Sunak must ‘grasp the nettle’ and open pay discussions – RCN

There are concerns this could provoke more strikes in an already-perilous health service, with RCN general secretary Pat Cullen calling on prime minister Rishi Sunak to ‘grasp the nettle’ and open pay discussions.

‘Rishi Sunak has to decide if this is the way he wants to spend the new year. He can battle against NHS staff who are dealing with a crisis at work, or he can grasp the nettle and negotiate with us,’ she said.

‘It is in everybody’s interest to reach agreement, compromise and let nursing staff focus on what they do best. He has a fortnight before further strikes and I’m asking him to think hard. I won’t dig in if he doesn’t dig in.’

Nurses are already embroiled in a bitter dispute over this year’s pay offer as well as patient safety concerns, and set to walk out again on January 18 and 19 after two days of strikes in December.

A recent RCN-commissioned London Economics report found the salary of most nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland had fallen by 20% in real terms since 2010.

A Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesperson said it had not yet set out its ‘position of affordability’ to the NHS PRB – and since the body is independent, the DHSC cannot pre-empt its recommendations.


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