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House prices rose six times faster than NHS nurses’ pay in last decade

Press Release 17/06/2021

  • The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) says nurses’ wages are left in the wake of spiralling living costs like house prices
  • Nursing staff say they feel undervalued; some say they are leaving the NHS to take higher paying work to save for a deposit 

The Government must “tip the scales” in favour of nursing staff with a pay boost as new analysis shows house prices have climbed six times faster than nursing salaries over the last decade. 

The cost of the average UK home has risen by 55 per cent in the last decade – up from £165,600 in 2011 to £256,400 today. 

Meanwhile, the pay of an experienced nurse in England, has only risen by nine per cent, or £2,900. The salary of a nurse with at least seven years’ experience today is £30,165. 

When the money they earn from working unsocial hours, extra shifts or on-call payments is taken into account, it brings their total pay to an estimated average of £35,340. In 2011, their total average pay was £32,440. 

This month, the Government launched a new First Homes scheme offering discounted house prices to some buyers but the majority of nursing staff won’t benefit because their pay has fallen so far behind house prices. A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) indicates housing makes up 40 per cent of lower income household's spending. 

The average cost of a house is now worth over seven years’ of a nurses’ total average pay – two more years’ total pay than in 2011 when the ratio between the average cost of a house and total pay was just over five years.  

The new analysis shows the prospect of home ownership for nursing support workers, vital health and care staff who work under the supervision of a registered nurse, is even bleaker.

  • An experienced NHS Band 4 assistant practitioner whose job can involve administering catheters and managing wounds has seen their total pay rise by nine percent since 2011, or £2,114, and now make an average of £26,071.
  • A Band 3 healthcare assistant, who plays a key role in emergency departments and operating theatres, has seen their total pay rise by 12 per cent, or £2,588, to £23,940.
  • But their lower pay means their increases are dwarfed by spiralling house prices. 

One nurse in Kent told the RCN she had left her NHS position because she wouldn’t be able to save enough for the deposit on a house. Another nurse based in Liverpool said a mortgage broker ‘laughed in her face’ when she said she wanted to buy a house.

Graham Revie, Chair of the RCN Trade Union Committee, said:

“The Government needs to tip the scales in nursing’s favour to stop this injustice. This research shows nursing wages are left in the wake of spiralling living costs like house prices. The proposed one per cent pay rise won’t come close to remedying the suppression of nursing salaries over the past ten years. It is officially a pay cut now that inflation has risen above one per cent as expected. When they make the announcement this summer, ministers must pay nursing what it’s worth – the public is expecting nothing less.”  

RCN Acting General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen said:

“The impact of nursing staff being priced out of the neighbourhoods where they work is devastating not just for them but their patients and patients’ families. Communities in which nursing staff can’t afford to live are communities at risk of poor health and patient care. 

Dr Gavan Conlon, one of the authors of the London Economics’ analysis, said: “It is hard to imagine a profession that contributes so much to the health and wellbeing of the nation being valued so poorly”. 

"With the proposed real-terms pay cut currently on offer, the prospect of nursing staff getting on the property ladder is now almost inconceivable. After the decade of being severely underpaid, the best way to start levelling up the economy after the pandemic is to start rewarding nursing staff properly.” 

The RCN is calling for an immediate 12.5% pay rise for all UK nursing staff. Read more about the Fair Pay for Nursing campaign here. 

  • Read the full briefing from London Economics here

Press Office Contacts

Nick Spears, Senior Media Officer
020 7647 3696

Claire Nelson, Senior Media Officer
029 2054 6401

Emma Laws, Media Officer
020 7647 3446

Michael Finlayson, Media Officer
020 7647 3459

Out of hours duty press officer
020 7647 3633