NHS pay rise: nurses are a force to be reckoned with

Until the government values nursing there will always be recruitment and retention crises. Now unions are balloting on how to respond to a below-inflation pay deal

Illustrations showing a group of burses standing holding a banner that redds 'Fair pay for nurses now'
Picture: iStock

Would you recommend a career in nursing?

If you are reading this, then chances are you care deeply about your profession and, of course, patients. Yet you are also quite likely – and rightly – after more than two years of unprecedented pressures and a crippling ongoing staffing crisis, in disbelief and furious about the below-inflation pay offer to nurses in England.

Inadequate pay fuels staffing crisis and recruitment issues

As I write, nurses in Wales and Northern Ireland are still unsure what their governments will do in light of the near-4% award for England’s NHS. Nurses in Scotland know theirs will be a 5% rise, and a ballot is taking place there and in England, with RCN members being asked if they are willing to take industrial action over the inadequate offers.

Meanwhile, figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show applications to nursing courses have dropped 8% from 56,630 in 2021 to 52,150 this year. Applications from those aged 25-29 showed an even sharper fall of 21% (from 7,550 to 5,930).

The response to the UCAS figures from those already in the profession is plain: until the government values nursing there will always be recruitment and retention crises.

Profession will stand up for better pay and conditions

Colleagues of mine have been judging the RCN Nursing Awards, which truly showcase the innovation, skills, leadership and essence of the profession.

Yet there is a depressing and dangerous lack of understanding in government of the complexity of nursing – unbelievable considering the images beamed around the world during the pandemic, and the fact it was nurses who kept prime minster Boris Johnson alive when he had COVID-19.

So what can you do in these times?

Carry on improving patient outcomes, call out patient safety risks, take a break to protect you and your patients – and stand up for better pay and conditions.

Show that nurses won’t keep quiet and that you are a force to be reckoned with.

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