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Unions slam move to limit NHS workers’ pay rise to 3% next year

Government recommendation to pay review body creates a false choice between paying staff fairly and safer staffing levels, RCN says
Image shows the figure 3% with a jagged red arrow passing through it and pointing upwards

Government recommendation to pay review body creates a false choice between paying staff fairly and safer staffing levels, RCN says

The government has recommended that a pay rise for nurses and other NHS workers next year should be limited to a maximum of 3%, a move unions branded ‘tight-fisted’.

The RCN called it a ‘deliberate attempt to pitch nurses against patients’ and accused the government of creating a false choice between better pay and safe staffing levels.

The reaction comes after the Department of Health and Social Care delivered its written evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body (RB), recommending a pay rise of 2% to

Government recommendation to pay review body creates a false choice between paying staff fairly and safer staffing levels, RCN says

Image shows the figure 3% with a jagged red arrow passing through it and pointing upwards
Image: iStock

The government has recommended that a pay rise for nurses and other NHS workers next year should be limited to a maximum of 3%, a move unions branded ‘tight-fisted’.

The RCN called it a ‘deliberate attempt to pitch nurses against patients’ and accused the government of creating a false choice between better pay and safe staffing levels.

The reaction comes after the Department of Health and Social Care delivered its written evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body (RB), recommending a pay rise of 2% to 3% for health workers in 2022-23.

Move called a ‘deeply unambitious starting point’ signalling to staff that they are not valued

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said the pay recommendation was a ‘deeply unambitious starting point’ and that it signalled to staff that they were not valued.

‘Our members will see this as a deliberate attempt to pitch nurses against patients. Politicians need to move beyond this false choice between paying staff fairly and safer staffing levels – one is key to the other,’ she said.

‘Failing to pay a fair wage is a false economy: we know that many are thinking of quitting the profession and anything less than what they deserve will not prevent an exodus from a safety-critical profession.’

Unison head of health Sara Gorton said the offer would go down like a ‘lead balloon’ with nurses. ‘This tight-fisted proposal falls well short of rising costs and staff hopes,’ she said.

‘This will go down like a lead balloon with health workers struggling to fill up at the pump, buy groceries and pay bills. It would be a wage cut in all but name.’

Evidence submitted by the DHSC for 2022-23 said the pandemic 'has shown, once more, that the NHS is nothing without its exceptional staff’. But it said that a pay offer also needed to be proportionate and consider inflationary pressures on the economy.

Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid has asked the RB to report back with recommendations in May, which means any deal would not be ready for the start of the 2022-23 financial year in April.

What is happening with the current pay offer?

An RCN England and Wales indicative ballot revealed half of nurses who took part would be willing to take strike action over the 3% pay offer for 2021-22, with 84% saying they were willing to take industrial action short of a strike.

Nurses in Scotland have said they are prepared to strike over their 4% pay offer for the same year, with 60% of RCN Scotland members who voted in an indicative ballot supporting strike action.

In Northern Ireland an RCN ballot showed that 92% of members did not want to accept an offer of 3% made by the Health Service Executive. The college is currently consulting members on action.


Find out more

The Department of Health and Social Care's written evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body (NHSPRB) for the 2022 to 2023 pay round

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