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Government’s evidence on NHS pay is ‘bitterly disappointing’ and ‘out of touch’ but not a done deal, says RCN

Members are urged to stay involved in the Fair Pay for Nursing campaign ahead of the PRB recommendations this summer.

Nursing staff headshots

The Department of Health and Social Care has submitted written evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) outlining that it had assumed a headline pay award of 1% for NHS staff and that anything higher would “require re-prioritisation”.  

The government’s submission also asks the PRB to consider the economic climate. 

The PRB is responsible for advising the government on pay for NHS staff and takes evidence from trade unions, employers and governments to inform its recommendations. 

Commenting on the government’s submission, RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said: “This is pitiful and bitterly disappointing. The government is dangerously out of touch with nursing staff, NHS workers and the public.  

“It is not a done deal, but the government has revealed its hand for the first time. With the time remaining before the Pay Review Body recommendation, the government can expect a backlash from a million NHS workers. Taxpayers are supportive of a significant and fair pay rise for NHS workers – this year of all years.” 

The RCN’s Fair Pay For Nursing campaign is calling for a fully funded 12.5% pay increase for all nursing staff covered by Agenda for Change terms, as part of a one-year deal that applies equally to all bands. In January, we submitted evidence to the PRB explaining why nursing staff deserve this rise, its affordability, and stressing the link between fair pay, recruitment, retention, and safe staffing.   

The governments covering the health service in England, Northern Ireland and Wales have asked the PRB to recommend what pay increase NHS staff in those countries should receive for 2021-22.  

Dame Donna added: “If the Pay Review Body accepts the government view, a pay award as poor as this would amount to only an extra £3.50 per week take-home pay for an experienced nurse. Nobody would think that is fair in the middle of a pandemic and it will do nothing to prevent the exodus from nursing.  

“Nursing staff would feel they are being punished and made to pay for the cost of the pandemic. It is a political decision to underfund and undervalue nursing staff.  

“Nursing deserves a 12.5% increase. Our members will be making sure the Pay Review Body understands their reality and how the award would be received.”

After considering all the evidence, the PRB will make recommendations to the governments and ministers have indicated that they expect the PRB to report by May 2021. Although the PRB makes recommendations, it is ministers who decide what level of pay rise to award.