Royal College of Nursing member and pay champion Steve Ney met with Mr Barclay, MP for North East Cambridgeshire, at one of his regular surgeries for constituents, where they discussed nursing pay and its impact on staff morale, the ability to recruit and retain nursing staff locally, and levels of staffing required to deliver safe patient care.Since 2010, NHS nursing staff have experienced a 14% real-terms pay cut, leaving them £3,000 a year worse off. Many have struggled to keep up with the cost of living while working in an increasingly pressurised and understaffed health and care system.
Local nurses as well as over 300 RCN members in the North East Cambridgeshire constituency have been affected by the 1% pay cap. A total of 425 postcards signed by constituents opposed to the UK Government’s policy on public sector pay, have been delivered to Mr Barclay as part of the #scrapthecap campaign.
Academic research has shown that when registered nursing levels are lower, necessary care is more likely to be missed. A recent RCN UK-wide survey of 30,000 frontline staff found that more than half (55 per cent) said shifts did not have the level of nurses planned and the shortage compromised the care given to patients (53 per cent).
In October 2017, Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, announced in the House of Commons that the 1% cap on nursing pay will be scrapped. At the following Autumn Budget, Chancellor Phillip Hammond, said that additional funding for a pay rise would not come from existing NHS budgets but it would be conditional on productivity increases. This concerns the RCN as nursing staff are already working above and beyond their normal working hours and regularly go without breaks.
Speaking after the meeting, Steve Ney said: “It was helpful to meet with Mr Barclay to discuss the campaign. Nursing staff work tirelessly to care for patients but our jobs are getting harder and harder.
“In the Eastern region nursing staff are struggling to pay their bills each month and are exhausted from working in busy, understaffed services. Many are leaving the profession because they can’t cope any more – we need a pay rise that reflects the work we do.”
Teresa Budrey, RCN Eastern Regional Director, said: “Years of pay restraint means nursing staff have been left feeling angry and demoralised.
“In an overstretched and underfunded health service they are working flat out, often staying behind after their shift finishes to care for patients because of staff shortages.
“After RCN members led the campaign to scrap the longstanding 1% cap on nursing pay increases, nursing are meeting MPs across the country to explain what a meaningful pay rise would mean to them, their colleagues and the profession as a whole.
“What we are asking for now is a pay award above inflation to begin to make up the money nursing staff have lost over the last decade.
“The UK Government must allow the Pay Review Body (PRB) to act independently in its review and recommendations, and any pay increase should not be linked to NHS staff productivity gains.
“The NHS has been running on the goodwill of its staff for too long. Any expectation of a pay rise linked to productivity gains will further devalue nurses.”