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RCN tells NHS Pay Review Body ‘Goodwill cannot last indefinitely’



The Royal College of Nursing has told the Independent Pay Review Body ‘Goodwill cannot last indefinitely’.

After seven years of pay restraint, nursing staff across the UK have been left angry and demoralised. This disaffection has resulted in severe nursing shortages, with 40,000 posts vacant in England alone.  Unless nursing staff are given a pay award at least in line with inflation, the exodus of staff will continue, and nursing will become less and less attractive as a career.

That’s the message from the Royal College of Nursing in its written evidence to the independent NHS Pay Review Body (PRB).  The PRB will make recommendations to Health Ministers in the spring on next year’s pay award for NHS staff.


The RCN, along with the other 13 NHS staff trade unions, is calling on the Review Body to recommend a pay rise at least in line with Retail Price Index (RPI) inflation, plus a £800 flat rate increase for all Agenda for Change staff to make up for lost earnings over the last seven years.  Pay was first frozen for nursing and other NHS staff for two years from 2010, then salary increases limited to 1% from 2013 until this year.

The RCN submission highlights that as a result of this pay restraint, wages for nursing staff have fallen far behind the cost of living since 2010.  While the RPI has grown by 20% and the Consumer Price Index (CPI) by 14% over this period, annual earnings (which include basic pay, overtime, shift pay and geographical allowances such as London Weighting) for Band 5 staff nurses have only increased by 6.1% over the seven years.  The average nurse in this category is now earning around £2,500 a year less than they would have been had their wages kept pace with inflation.

The College’s evidence also argues that any increases in pay should not be linked to ‘productivity improvements’, as both the Chancellor and Health Secretary have suggested, and points out that it would be difficult for individual staff to be any more ‘productive’ when so many are already working extra hours without pay, working through their breaks and staying on after their shift has ended.  However, the submission outlines a number of barriers to productivity gains which nurses themselves have highlighted, such as:

  • With the NHS short of 40,000 nurses in England alone, the pressure and pace of work are leading many older nursing staff to take early retirement – this is a huge loss of valuable skills and experience.
  • Lack of clinical opportunities for experienced nurses (Band 7 and above) means that many feel they are forced into managerial roles when they would prefer to continue working with patients – again, this is prompting some staff to leave.
  • Many staff also point to the scale and complexity of paperwork they have to contend with as a barrier to improving productivity and patient care.

These comments were typical of those received from nurses in connection with the pay claim:

“We feel insulted by the 1% pay rise.  If we weren’t so close-knit, morale would be much lower.  No wonder we can’t recruit people into nursing, the Government doesn’t respect the role or us” – Band 6 Charge Nurse, Scotland.

“They are relying on our goodwill – but it’s about to break” – Band 5 Staff Nurse, London

Commenting on the College’s evidence, Janet Davies, RCN Chief Executive and General Secretary, said:

“RCN members led the campaign to scrap the longstanding 1% cap on nursing pay increases, and were pleased when it was abandoned by the Government in October.  However, after seven years in which their wages have lagged far behind the cost of living, nursing staff are now looking for a meaningful pay rise at least in line with inflation.  Instead they have heard equivocal messages from the Government about linking any future salary increases to productivity.  This has generated anger and confusion among the nursing workforce.

“The NHS has been running on the goodwill of nursing and other staff for far too long.  This goodwill cannot last indefinitely, and we look to the Pay Review Body to make a recommendation which both acknowledges the sacrifices made by NHS staff, and the economic necessity of a meaningful pay rise.  With at least 40,000 nursing posts currently vacant in England alone, the NHS cannot afford to haemorrhage any more nursing staff”.

The Independent pay review body will submit its report to the government in March 2018.


Nursing vacancies hit record high leaving patient care at risk

It can be “dangerous” when there aren’t enough nurses to provide care.



Patient Falls Risk with IV

There are now a record 43,671 empty nursing posts in the NHS in England alone.

NHS figures show that there are now a record 43,671 empty nursing posts in the NHS in England alone, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

The College says a global shortage of nurses alongside the removal of the nursing bursary has compounded this figure which now sees 12% of posts through the NHS in England without a full-time Registered Nurse.


Figures from the University and College Admissions Service (UCAS) show a 29% overall decline in applications to undergraduate courses since 2015, when the bursary was cut by the Government.

In a report released today titled ‘Standing up for patient and public safety’, the Royal College of Nursing outlines the evidence of the need for a new law that allocates specific legal responsibilities for workforce planning and supply.

A new law is needed.

The report states that in order to address the record number of vacancies, and the gap between the numbers of health and care staff needed to deliver patient care vs. how many are in the system.

Figures included in the report reveal that the number of nursing staff has consistently failed to keep up with the dramatic rise in demand for services and the number of emergency admissions.

The report finally makes a further call for legal clarity on the roles, responsibilities, as well as accountabilities, for workforce planning and supply.

In September, after pressure from RCN members, NHS England and NHS Improvement asked the Government for clarity over who is accountable for the nursing workforce.

‘Nurses are working harder than ever’.

Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said: “Nurses are working harder than ever to deliver safe patient care but are being held back by a system that is legally lacking teeth. Despite the public, patients and nurses all agreeing that clarity is needed on responsibilities for delivering enough nurses, we have yet to see any government pledge anything of the like, and as a result are staring down the barrel at a record 43k empty nursing posts.

“We know how dangerous it can be when there aren’t enough nurses to provide care, but at present, almost all accountability rests with the frontline nurse working on the understaffed ward, rather than those responsible for the system they work in.

“We believe the time has come for change and that patient care was future-proofed by law, and that from the government down, decision makers are held to account.

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NHS calls for clarity on who is accountable for the nursing workforce

Figures suggest there are around 40,000 unfilled nursing vacancies throughout the NHS in England.



Working nurses in the CCU

Healthcare leaders are calling for legislation to be included in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech.

NHS England and NHS Improvement have called on the Government to clarify who is accountable for the nursing workforce and the chronic problems it’s currently facing.

Following ongoing pressure from nursing unions, the two organisations met today and recommend that the government should “revisit with partners whether national responsibilities and duties in relation to workforce functions are sufficiently clear.”


With around 40,000 unfilled nursing vacancies in the NHS in England and thousands more throughout social care, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) believes the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care should be legally accountable for the workforce.

Along with other health care leaders, Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the RCN, written to the Government calling for the legislation proposed by NHS England and NHS Improvement to be included in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech.

Staff shortages have reached ‘alarming levels’.

Responding to the news, Dame Donna Kinnair said: “We are pleased that NHS England and NHS Improvement has recognised the concerns of RCN members and the public and has stated that the issue of accountability for workforce planning and supply remains an area that needs be resolved.”

“In the week after we have launched a major public facing campaign calling for investment in the nursing workforce as well as for accountability to be clarified in the law, yet again, the case is made for this to be taken seriously.

“We are clear that government is well placed to determine how accountability can be clarified in law.

Adding; “Staff shortages have reached alarming levels with at least 40,000 vacant registered nurse posts in the NHS in England alone with thousands more vacancies in public health and social care.

“We now hope government will listen to this message, as well as the voices of the thousands of members that responded to the NHS England engagement process, and bring forward this legislation, taking the opportunity to include accountability in government and throughout the health and care system, for workforce planning and supply.”

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