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PM hopeful Liz Truss’ comments on pay were ‘an attack on NHS values’

Would-be PM's proposal was an insult to nursing professionals, says RCN, as nursing staff get ready to have their say on industrial strike action in England and Wales.

People with RCN fair pay placards on a march in London
The RCN condemned a policy proposed by Liz Truss, who said she would end national pay deals for public sector staff in England if she becomes Prime Minister. She later retracted her comments and said current levels of public sector pay will be maintained, but we say this is not enough to fix the current staffing crisis.  

In a leadership debate on Monday (1 August), the Tory leadership candidate suggested linking pay to regional living standards. This would mean nursing staff doing similar roles receiving different salaries depending on location. She vowed to end national pay deals for civil servants and said she would do the same in other public sector roles if the scheme was successful. 

It is right for Truss to U-turn on the proposed policy. Lowering nursing pay in any region of the UK is always a bad idea. Proposing this during a cost-of-living crisis is insulting to nursing staff everywhere. 

RCN General Secretary & Chief Executive Pat Cullen said: "This was  an attack on NHS values and a direct assault on its professionals. Undermining trade unions and their members, diversity and employment rights are warped priorities when Ms Truss herself says hospitals are crumbling. 

"By suggesting that salaries for nurses and support workers deserve cutting further she has shown her true colours.” 

There are already tens of thousands of unfilled nursing jobs and cutting salaries will drive many more out of the profession. These shortages mean that patient care is suffering. 

Pat added: "National salaries are key to a national service. A move to regional pay in the NHS was defeated 10 years ago and I give notice to Ms Truss that I would fight her just as strongly if she were to pursue such a policy.  

"This will be fresh in the minds of nursing staff when they vote on taking strike action in our upcoming industrial action ballot – enough is enough.” 

The comments by Truss came as analysis by energy consultants found that households across Britain should expect an annual energy bill of £3,615 this winter.  

A recent RCN poll that shows public support in England for nursing staff taking industrial action over pay had risen sharply in June to almost half.

Make sure that the RCN has your correct job title, employer details and home address, so that we can send you your ballot paper and you can have your say on pay.