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NHS pay: nurses should never be embarrassed to demand more

Governments must recalibrate nurses’ pay and give nursing the recognition it deserves as a skilled and safety-critical profession, union leader urges
RCN general secretary Pat Cullen gives keynote speech at college’s 2022 congress in Glasgow

Governments must recalibrate nurses’ pay and give nursing the recognition it deserves as a skilled and safety-critical profession, union leader urges

Nurses were urged never to be embarrassed to ask for fair pay – with the issue all the more pressing thanks to the cost of living crisis.

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen painted a stark picture of nursing staff worried about how to make ends meet amid rising utility bills, food and fuel costs when she addressed the college’s annual congress in Glasgow.

Ms Cullen demanded the government take health service pay seriously, as the NHS Pay Review Body (NHS PB) prepares to deliver its recommendations on

Governments must recalibrate nurses’ pay and give nursing the recognition it deserves as a skilled and safety-critical profession, union leader urges

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen gives keynote speech at college’s 2022 congress in Glasgow
RCN general secretary Pat Cullen delivers her keynote speech at the college’s Glasgow congress Picture: John Houlihan

Nurses were urged never to be embarrassed to ask for fair pay – with the issue all the more pressing thanks to the cost of living crisis.

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen painted a stark picture of nursing staff worried about how to make ends meet amid rising utility bills, food and fuel costs when she addressed the college’s annual congress in Glasgow.

Ms Cullen demanded the government take health service pay seriously, as the NHS Pay Review Body (NHS PB) prepares to deliver its recommendations on pay in the coming days.

‘When the cost of living is soaring, I know how frightened you are. People choosing between heating and eating – and it’s not even winter. People doing their community rounds by bus because they cannot fill the car,’ she said.

‘Your employers being put in the shameful position of opening food banks for the staff. It is the politicians who are responsible and only they can address it. We should never be embarrassed for asking to be paid decently and appropriately.’

Anything less than an above-inflation rise is really a pay cut

The RCN is calling for a pay rise of five percentage points above inflation, which it says is needed to retain skilled nurses and attract new talent to the profession.

Ms Cullen said anything under an above-inflation pay rise works as a real-terms pay cut for nurses.

‘Nursing is skilled work. It is safety-critical work. But the salary doesn’t match that level of responsibility,’ she added.

‘Today’s governments are sending out a terrible message that nursing work isn’t worth more.’

RCN in formal pay dispute – could more follow?

The college in Northern Ireland last week entered into a formal dispute over pay with the country’s Department of Health after 92.2% of eligible members said through a ballot that a 3% wage increase for 2021-22 was unacceptable.

Their stance is echoed elsewhere in the UK. An RCN England and Wales indicative ballot revealed half of participating nurses would be willing to take strike action over the 3% pay offer for 2021-22, while nurses in Scotland have said they are prepared to strike over their 4% pay rise for the same year.


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