UK’s largest nursing union has warned the Government’s offer of a 3 per cent pay rise will lead to “an exodus of exhausted NHS nursing staff”.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) will hold a “summer of action” including a potential vote on strike action as it demands “fair pay” for health staff.
The UK’s largest nursing union has warned the Government’s offer of a 3 per cent pay rise will lead to “an exodus of exhausted NHS nursing staff” and has called for a 12.5 per cent raise. A series of demonstrations will be held throughout the summer in Hove, Norfolk and Wales as the public are invited to show support for health staff.
Alongside the protests, the RCN plans to hold a consultative ballot on the views of its members in mid-August.
The outcome will be known ahead of the RCN’s annual national Congress in Liverpool in September, where a formal ballot on strike action is likely to feature.
The British Medical Association – the country’s largest trade union for doctors – and Unison are also consulting members over potential strike measures
The RCN said a poll it commissioned saw a majority (51 per cent) of the public think the 3 per cent pay award is too little, and 62 per cent think there are too few nurses to provide safe care to patients.
It has been campaigning for a fully-funded 12.5 per cent pay rise for all nursing staff, saying that with inflation the 3 per cent rise is a real-terms pay cut and leaves experienced nursing staff £200 worse off than they were a decade ago.
RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said the 3 per cent rise “will not be enough to prevent an exodus of exhausted NHS nursing staff”.
She said: “Today we’ve launched a summer of action – a calendar of events across the UK hosted by members to ensure that our colleagues, our patients, the public and politicians know that the campaign won’t stop until nursing is respected and protected. We know this award will not be enough to prevent an exodus of exhausted NHS nursing staff and ministers must now be honest about the impact this would have on patient care.
“The Government is failing to give the NHS the money it truly needs. This current game of smoke and mirrors is dangerous for patients and nursing staff who care for them. If ministers ignore the voice of nursing, they ignore the voice of patients – and that is something we, as nurses, will never allow.”
Nurses, paramedics, consultants, dentists and salaried GPs come under the new pay deal, which is three times higher than the Government’s initial 1 per cent offer. The rise – thought to cost £2.2bn – will come out of the existing health service’s budget.
Unison has started a consultation into the proposed 3 per cent pay rise for NHS staff announced by the Government last week. The union, one of the UK’s largest, has said the award does not “meet the real living wage of £9.50 per hour for the lowest paid health service workers” and claimed it widens the gap between those at the top and bottom of the pay scale.
Unison head of health Sara Gorton said: “Missing the living wage target by 1.5p per hour shows the Government ignored the lowest paid, for all the Prime Minister’s talk of levelling up. It’s vital staff give their views straight away. Ministers won’t wait to hear what health workers think before they begin paying the new rates.”
Unison will begin consulting NHS workers this Friday on whether they accept the rise, or oppose it and are “prepared to take industrial action”. The union says more than 300,000 people will be asked for their views on the pay rise, with the consultation closing on September 10.
Unison had instead called for an across-the-board £2,000 pay increase for all NHS staff, which it says “would have ensured the pay gap and inequalities would not have widened further”.