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At RCN Congress 2022, former prime minister Gordon Brown condemned the need for nursing staff to use food banks. We shouldn’t be in this position, and yet, here we are. 

Times are tough for everyone, but nursing support workers are being hit from all sides. 

We’ve been feeling the rising cost of living for a while, and it’s had a worrying and isolating impact on some of us. People who’ve never before struggled financially are now tightening their belts, wondering what went wrong.

The truth is they haven’t done anything wrong, but the worst thing any of us can do is get into spiralling debt.  

Rising inflation

Things are unlikely to get better any time soon. Inflation continues to rise way beyond our pay packets. A recent BBC survey suggests four out of five people are already worried about the cost of living, but as nursing staff at the lower end of pay scales, we’ll inevitably be disproportionately affected.

Even before the rise in the cost of living became a favourite topic in the media, we already weren’t being paid enough. 

Now, as we face soaring food, fuel and energy prices, it feels like we’re being stretched in all directions.

Many of us use our own cars for patient visits. Fuel is essential to do our jobs, and yet we’re having to subsidise the services we work in. Some district and community nursing staff have told the RCN they’re paying £100 more on petrol every month. We simply can’t afford for this to continue. 

Get involved 

I know the rising cost of living can’t be put down to any one issue and there are some things we can’t change. But there is something that politicians can do to make a difference.  

They must stop ignoring the real need for a substantial pay rise for nursing staff facing enormous increases in their bills after a devastating two-and-a-half-year slog through the COVID-19 pandemic.  

If the pandemic wasn’t enough to make politicians appreciate our value, this escalating cost-of-living crisis and threat of people leaving must make them sit up and listen. It’s time for ministers to recognise our worth and pay us properly.

They can’t go on ignoring the fact that our pay is declining in real terms right now and has been for a long time.  

Pay is a crucial factor in recruiting and retaining the nursing workforce and the next NHS pay award needs to be a significant one. Ministers must be bold and give us a pay award that beats inflation by 5%.

This is important wherever you work because any pay award made in the NHS can influence pay in other sectors.  

After the UK government announces the pay award for NHS staff in England, RCN members will have a chance to speak up for their profession, and their patients.

I’d urge you not to stay silent on this key issue. Please don’t think this is a fight for someone else. This is a fight for you and what you deserve – our strength is in our numbers. Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t just survive this crisis, but as a nursing union, we thrived because of it?  

Find out how you can get involved with the RCN fight for fair pay for all nursing staff because what you’re experiencing as an individual right now is important, and together we’re stronger.  

Kevin Morley is Chair of the RCN Nursing Support Workers Committee   

Read more about nursing pay

The NHS pay deal announced by the UK government will have an impact on the money available for NHS pay in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It is for the devolved governments in those countries to decide what pay rise to offer staff working there.  

The Scottish government recently offered NHS staff a 5% pay increase and an announcement by the Welsh government is expected soon.  

The situation in Northern Ireland is complex as a government hasn’t been formed following elections in May. We continue to demand the immediate restoration of the Northern Ireland government to address the escalating nursing crisis.  

Are you struggling to make ends meet right now? Take a look at our financial wellbeing information and get in touch with us if you want to share your story and add your voice to our demands for fair pay.

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