RCN calls government response to pay petition ‘completely inadequate’

College criticises response to a petition against the 1% pay cap on NHS staff.

The RCN has described the government’s response to a petition against the annual 1% pay cap on NHS staff as ‘completely inadequate’.

Creator of the pay petition Danielle Tiplady. Picture: Barney Newman

The online petition, instigated by community nurse Danielle Tiplady, argues that Agenda for Change staff have experienced pay restraint since 2010 and lost about 14% of their pay in real terms.

‘Staff are struggling nationwide and many have been pushed into poverty,’ she said.

The petition has received almost 60,000 signatures since its creation on 3 October.

Government reply

In an 850-word response posted last Friday on the petition website, the Department of Health (DH) said overall earnings for nurses and other non-medical staff had increased ‘year-on-year since 2010-11, in total by 4% or 0.8% a year’.

The response stated: ‘There is a trade-off between pay and jobs in many public services, and pay restraint is one of the many difficult choices the government has had to make.

‘The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that this policy will protect 200,000 public sector jobs.’

The response also claimed that average earnings for qualified nurses were £31,214 in the 12 months to June 2016, ‘a slight increase from the same time last year’.

Drawing criticism

Responding to the DH statement, the RCN said: ‘The government’s response to this petition is completely inadequate.

‘It ignores the financial hardship facing thousands of nursing staff this winter; a consequence of the 1% cap on their pay.

‘Pay restraint is a political decision and it is not the responsibility of hard-working nursing staff to pay for financial failings in the NHS.’

‘Appalling’ response

On Twitter, Ms Tiplady urged more people to sign the petition and dismissed the DH statement. ‘The government’s response to this is appalling and doesn’t listen to any of our concerns,’ she wrote.

Fellow Twitter users shared their frustration online: one mental health nurse said the response was ‘insulting’, while another user said it was ‘disgusting’ and called for more action.

In its response, the government also maintained that it had:

  • Increased staffing levels with more than 3,500 more nurses and midwives employed since May 2010 and more than 51,000 nursing students being trained.
  • Helped more than 2,300 returners on to the Return to Practice programme, with more than 700 now back in employment.
  • Enabled universities to work towards significantly expanding nurse training places by the end of parliament in 2020, through reforms to the funding of pre-registration nurse education.

If the petition receives 100,000 signatures, it will require the government to debate the issue further in parliament.