Pressure mounting on government to scrap pay cap

The RCN’s summer of protest is set to continue amid mounting pressure on the government to lift the public sector pay cap.
Edinburgh_Scrap the Cap

The RCN’s summer of protest is set to continue amid mounting pressure on the government to lift the public sector pay cap.

Edinburgh_Scrap the Cap
Part of the ‘scrap the cap’ demonstration in Edinburgh last week. Picture: Greg MacVean

Senior ministers have spoken out about the need to scrap the 1% cap and ease austerity.

On Sunday, environment secretary Michael Gove suggested the government could support a lifting of the public sector pay cap for NHS workers.

Mr Gove said it is the ‘collective view of government’ to ‘respect the integrity’ of independent public sector pay review bodies, one of which warned in March that the 1% cap is putting ‘stress’ on the health service.

Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston has also called for the pay cap to be reviewed.

The calls follow a failed attempt by the Labour Party last week to amend the Queen’s Speech to lift wage restrictions for nurses and other public sector workers, and to abandon cuts to emergency services.

Days later, the Scottish Government committed itself to lifting the cap and taking inflation into account when it sets its next budget.

Welsh health secretary Vaughan Gething last week added his voice to calls to scrap the cap.

In a letter to health secretary Jeremy Hunt, he called for the UK Treasury to make funds available across the UK to ‘allow hard working NHS staff to receive a pay uplift of greater than 1%’.

Responding to Labour’s defeat in the House of Commons, RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: ‘This is a bitter disappointment for nurses and others in the public sector. But we also know that a growing number on the government’s own benches agree the cap should be scrapped.

‘We will continue to build cross-party support this summer. If the prime minister intends to address pay in an autumn Budget, she should say so without delay.

‘The pay cap stands in the way of filling the 40,000 vacant nurse posts in England. When NHS and care services are short of safe staffing, patients pay a heavy price.’


Ms Davies welcomed health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s pledge to listen to the Pay Review Body and said ministers needed to understand nurses have lost £3,000 in real terms since 2010.

The college’s summer of protest began last week with a candlelit vigil in Norwich, Norfolk.

RCN Norfolk chair Helen Oatham said: ‘This is an unprecedented show of anger and frustration over the government’s pay policy.’

The vigil was followed by demonstrations outside Department of Health buildings in London and Birmingham, and Scottish Parliament buildings in Edinburgh, as well as more than 25 regional events.

RCN pay champions met in Wales to discuss how the campaign will be organised there, while regional branches in England signed postcards to the government and recruited members for future protests.

At an unofficial event this week, London nurses will deliver a ‘magic money tree’ to the Department of Health, in reference to comments made by the prime minister.

Cost of living

Community nurse Charlotte Mead told Nursing Standard at the demonstration in London that she is moving out of the capital because she cannot afford to live there.

Intensive care nurse Nicki Weston said she has already moved to Kent, and that her commute now costs £4,500 per year.

Ms Mead said patient care is suffering because vacancies mean the ideal nurse-to-patient ratio of one to four is often not met.

Emergency department children’s nurse Ana Waddington said: ‘I’m fed up. I am thinking about leaving my job because I’m scared of facing the winter crisis again.’

Children’s nurse and mother of four Amina Ahmed said she was relying on family and friends to support her financially, as she struggles to cope living with her family in a one-bedroom flat.

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