Why we must speak up on nursing pay

Dame Donna Kinnair 26 Feb 2021 Chief Executive and General Secretary

Dame Donna Kinnair updates members on her demands to the UK Government ahead of the Budget.

Next Wednesday is the UK Budget, when the Chancellor will set out the government’s proposed spending and expected income for the year ahead. 

We’ve been asking you to sign our petition to the Prime Minister ahead of the Budget to demand money is set aside for nursing pay.

The pandemic has demonstrated the best of nursing – we have risen to the challenge but at great personal cost. I hear from you, our members, regularly about the impact the pandemic has had on your mental health. 

The work you have done this year isn’t new or a different type of nursing - it is the skill, expertise and level of care you bring to your roles day in, day out. That is why we told the government all along that we don’t want  a COVID-19 bonus.

But you do deserve a significant pay rise this year. That is because nursing pay hasn’t kept up with rising living costs and you are worse off than you were 10 years ago. The government have indicated they will give nursing staff a pay rise this year – but if the Chancellor replicates the rise of other public sector workers last year, an experienced nurse would take home less than £10 extra a week. 

When it takes a FTSE 100 Chief Executive three days to earn what you earn in a year – we know that pay rise isn’t fair.

The government might say NHS workers are exempt from its public sector pay freeze but I keep having to remind them that there are so many fantastic nurses and support workers who not employed by the NHS – working in our communities or in social care. Those professionals are equally deserving of a significant pay rise. We will not accept these divisive tactics.

You deserve more – you deserve pay that truly reflects the contribution of the work you do. And you deserve better working conditions, with the right skill mix and numbers of staff needed to provide safe and effective patient care – wherever you work. 

And our patients deserve more too - they deserve to be cared for by staff whose pay is enough to support and sustain them and their families. To be cared for by staff who don’t have to work extra shifts to help pay the bills and can properly rest before they care again. 

You told us in a survey last year that many of you were thinking of leaving nursing – with many of you citing pay as a factor. We entered the pandemic tens of thousands of nursing staff short and I fear that many more of you will chose to leave after the pandemic. This would be a terrible loss – for our profession and, importantly, our patients. 

I have been telling the government in the media today – and for months now – that the Budget must include extra funds to add to central NHS budgets for the explicit purpose of increasing staff pay levels, if they want to prevent an exodus from nursing after the pandemic. 

All eyes are now on the government – they must show us they are prepared to rise to this challenge and to deliver Fair Pay For Nursing now. 

And all eyes are on you – so join our day of action for our campaign ahead of the Budget. With over 450,000 members, we are a force to be reckoned - join us on Tuesday 2 March and make sure the voice of nursing is heard loud and clear.

More information

Sign our petition 

Join our day of action

Support our campaign 


Dame Donna Kinnair

Dame Donna Kinnair

Chief Executive & General Secretary

Prior to her appointment as Acting Chief Executive & General Secretary, Dame Donna was Director of Nursing, Policy and Practice and worked with UK-wide RCN staff to drive and implement RCN professional nursing, policy and practice strategy.

Before joining the RCN, Donna held various roles, including Clinical Director of Emergency Medicine at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust.
Donna advised the PM’s Commission on the future of Nursing and Midwifery in 2010 and served as nurse/child health assessor to the Victoria Climbié Inquiry.

Page last updated - 26/02/2021