There should be no need to explain why nurses deserve a pay rise now

After the COVID-19 crisis, many are rightly angry over the government’s public sector increase

The prime minister joins the clap for carers during the COVID-19 crisis Picture: Alamy

The government’s announcement of public sector pay rises was unsurprisingly met with anger and frustration from nurses, having been told they had to wait until 2021.

Doctors, police officers and teachers were all granted an uplift in salary in the statement by chancellor Rishi Sunak. But not nurses – or at least not yet.

Decision to exclude nurses from this pay rise is at best tone deaf

Then, to add insult to injury, days later the prime minister was tweeting about how he’d entered office with a pledge to support nurses. This is all with the memory of dangerous shortages of personal protective equipment for front-line staff anything but distant.

Next year, nurses will come to the end of a three-year pay deal, which was a first step in ending years of pay freezes and caps. But excluding nurses from a much-trumpeted broad boost in public sector pay as we emerge from the peak of the pandemic is at best tone deaf – or at worst ‘immoral’, as Graham Revie, chair of the RCN’s trade union committee, put it.

The college and 13 other unions have called for pay talks to start now, with a view to making a deal this year.

Clapping for nurses who risked their lives during the pandemic won't pay their bills – or stop them leaving

No one – apart from the government, it seems – needs reminding how nurses have been at the forefront of the COVID-19 response, from nurses in intensive care units caring for the sickest of patients, to those in the community protecting vulnerable people, and those working in residential and nursing care homes hit hard by the virus.

Public recognition and appreciation of nursing has never been greater.

But, as many nurses have commented, clapping and warm feelings from the public won’t put food on the table or pay the bills.

In fact, a third of nurses say they are considering leaving the profession, with pay cited as the top reason, according to an RCN survey with 41,788 respondents. 

Preventing an exodus of nurses from the profession

There is some positive news, with a rise in applications to study nursing, but this needs to be matched by meaningful efforts to prevent a sharp exodus of experienced nurses.

A significant pay rise would be a good start.

Arguments and explanations about why nurses deserve and need a pay rise now shouldn’t be necessary, not now.

If the government is serious about supporting nurses, then it must act swiftly.

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