MPs debate fair pay for nurses and other NHS staff

Nurses from across England travelled to the House of Commons to lobby MPs to attend a debate to remove the 1% pay cap.

Nurses from across England travelled to the House of Commons to lobby MPs to attend a debate to scrap the 1% pay cap.

 RCN general secretary Janet Davies (centre in beige coat) is part of the ‘Scrap the cap’ demo outside Parliament. Photo: Barney Newman

Labour MP for Newcastle North Catherine McKinnell led the debate, which was triggered by a petition started by community nurse Danielle Tiplady and signed by more than 100,000 people.

The online petition argues that Agenda for Change staff have experienced pay restraint since 2010 and have lost about 14% of their pay in real terms. 

Real-terms pay cut

A recent analysis by the Trades Union Congress revealed that nurses could face a real-terms pay cut of almost £3,000 by 2020 if pay restraint continued. 

The RCN has long called for the pay cap to be removed to help with staff retention and to attract more people into nursing.

Around 50 RCN members attended a lobby event organised by the RCN ahead of the debate, where nurses met with MPs to discuss the impact of the pay cap.

They included neonatal intensive care specialist sister Amy Overend, who told of the impact of pay restraint on her finances.

‘Struggling on basic salary’

‘Month to month I am struggling to live on my basic salary,’ she said.

‘I have to do all night shifts to get extra unsocial hours payments because any other way would mean I could not make ends meet. I've also had to use my annual leave to work extra shifts elsewhere to pay the bills and not had a holiday in four years.

‘Nursing is in crisis and we desperately need this pay rise.’

Also attending was retired neurological nurse and nursing lecturer Tricia Pank, who spoke with Labour MP for Wood Green Catherine West.

‘Living on very little’

‘I came here today to represent the incredible cohort of nursing students who are now trying to live on very little,’ she said.

‘I won't say it was easy for me when I was their age, but without a doubt their struggles are so much worse than mine were.

‘For nurses based in London, the housing situation is dire, travel is expensive and time-consuming, the cost of childcare is prohibitive, and many are having to use food banks to survive.

'I am  hoping my local MP Keir Starmer comes as his mother was a nurse and I know he understands how hard and vital the job is.’

True worth

RCN south east rep Lisa Taylor told Nursing Standard that nurses should be ‘living, not simply surviving’.

‘I came here to represent my members who are not able to get the time off work,’ she said.

‘Nurses need to be paid what they are truly worth and be valued by the government.’

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has previously signalled that the pay restraint is set to continue for the 2017-2018 pay award, calling it a ‘crucial’ part of government plans to control public finances.

In September, health unions urged the NHS Pay Review Body (RB), which advises the government on NHS staff pay, to recommend a meaningful pay rise for NHS workers for the 2017-18 pay round.

The RB is expected to submit its report to ministers by the end of February.

‘Backbone of the health service’

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said ahead of the debate: ‘Nursing staff are the backbone of the health service, working under immense pressure to take care of people at their most vulnerable.

‘It’s absolutely shameful these highly skilled, dedicated professionals are having to resort to food banks and pay day loans to make ends meet. They’re caring for the nation during a major crisis in the health service.

‘We are only asking for a pay increase that keeps pace with the cost of living – it is the least our nurses deserve.’

In other news