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Nurse leader: Nurses spend their lives caring for others, so pay them what they’re worth

With mounting nursing shortages, plummeting retention levels and the scrapping of student bursaries, a perfect storm is brewing - and it is high time the government started taking care of nursing staff, says RCN chief executive Janet Davies
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With mounting nursing shortages, plummeting retention levels and the scrapping of student bursaries, a perfect storm is brewing - and it is high time the government started taking care of nursing staff, says RCN chief executive Janet Davies

One of the biggest contradictions of the nursing profession is that staff who spend their lives taking care of others often feel no one cares about them. Nursing is a wonderful but difficult job, especially in the current climate, and with nursing shortages mounting, retention levels plummeting and student bursaries scrapped, there is a perfect storm brewing.

Nurses and healthcare assistants love to care for others it is why they do the job. But they should be paid properly for it. Pay restraint since 2010 means NHS

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With mounting nursing shortages, plummeting retention levels and the scrapping of student bursaries, a perfect storm is brewing - and it is high time the government started taking care of nursing staff, says RCN chief executive Janet Davies


Pay strain has become a real concern for nurses, says 
RCN chief executive Janet Davies. Picture: Neil O'Connor

One of the biggest contradictions of the nursing profession is that staff who spend their lives taking care of others often feel no one cares about them. Nursing is a wonderful but difficult job, especially in the current climate, and with nursing shortages mounting, retention levels plummeting and student bursaries scrapped, there is a perfect storm brewing.

Nurses and healthcare assistants love to care for others – it is why they do the job. But they should be paid properly for it. Pay restraint since 2010 means NHS staff are putting up with a 14% pay cut in real terms, causing growing financial pressures in the NHS to bleed out into their personal lives. Members tell me they cannot pay their rent or provide for their children, with some even resorting to food banks. 

From the practice nurse at the GP surgery to the specialist nurse supporting patents through chemotherapy, the nation relies on nursing staff, and RCN research last year found the majority of Britons think they should be paid more. 

With the Autumn Statement on the horizon, the government needs to realise they cannot keep treating nurses this way – especially if they want them to remain in the job. That is why the RCN is calling for an above inflation pay increase for all nursing staff, as well as a return to UK-wide pay scales. 

The NHS cannot keep relying on nurses’ good will to keep going. It is time the government started taking care of nursing staff too. 


About the author 

Janet Davies Janet Davies is RCN chief executive and general secretary

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