The decision means nursing staff once again face a cut to their pay in real terms, a move which the RCN says will worsen already severe staffing shortages.
Janet Davies, RCN Chief Executive, said: “This deals a bitter blow to nursing staff across England. The nursing profession is rightly held in high regard but kind words don’t pay the bills.
“With this announcement, the Government will deter new people from joining the nursing profession at the very moment it is failing to retain staff and European colleagues in particular head for the door.”
The RCN campaigned hard for an above-inflation pay increase, but the continuation of the cap means pay will lag behind the cost of living for the sixth year in a row.
Janet added: “It amounts to another real-terms cut to pay packets – the Government is still refusing to keep nursing wages in line with inflation.
“The Government has already cut nursing pay by 14% in real-terms – leaving too many struggling and turning to foodbanks and hardship grants.”
The decision on nursing pay in England is exacerbated by the recent announcement from NHS Improvement banning NHS staff from working agency shifts at their trust or any other.
“Many nurses rely on working extra hours for the NHS as agency staff but, from next week, they will be forced to work through a ‘bank’ and accept lower rates of pay than they get in their normal NHS job,” said Janet.
“We do not support this agency ban – nurses should not work for less than they are worth and they have a right to work in whatever way is best for them.
“Ministers are ignoring the evidence that staff shortages put patient care and safety at risk. Tens of thousands of nursing jobs lie vacant today and the Government missed the opportunity to stop that getting worse.”