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Budget 2024: Chancellor’s political choices will deepen nursing crisis

6 Mar 2024

Today’s budget offers nothing for nursing, despite an escalating workforce crisis, as the Chancellor plays politics with the long-term future of our profession.

Budget box

Today (6 March), Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt delivered his financial update for the year ahead, but failed to offer anything to address the NHS and nursing workforce crises.

Ahead of the budget, we wrote to the Chancellor, outlining the depths of the nursing workforce crisis, and demanding that he invest in a loan forgiveness model for nursing graduates working in the NHS and other public services. Instead, the Chancellor has prioritised tax cuts, which will do nothing to grow our nursing workforce or bring down waiting lists. The tax cuts announced today, worth £10bn, could cover the student loans of nurses who work in the NHS after graduation for the next 4 decades.

In his speech, the Chancellor spoke of a “productivity plan” and improving technology in the NHS. Yet with 10s of thousands of nursing vacancies and applications to study nursing falling 26% in 2 years, technology alone will do little to improve patient care. Nursing staff are underpaid, overworked and doing all they can to maintain patient safety in an underfunded NHS, yet the Chancellor has once again taken the political decision to leave nursing without the investment it needs.

This was the wrong budget for the wrong time, laying the ground for the nursing workforce crisis to worsen.

Professor Pat Cullen, RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive, said: “The public do not back the Chancellor’s agenda – they want the health service turned around more than they support tax reduction.

“Technology is transformative in health care but you still need enough staff to use it, yet the Chancellor did not face up to his NHS workforce plan now heading in the wrong direction. Fewer people are starting nurse courses, not more. When nursing staff are already forced to give care in corridors and treat 15 patients at a time, his productivity plan must not ask them for even more.

“A package of financial measures, including a loan forgiveness scheme for nurses working in the NHS, should have been announced to boost domestic nurse recruitment. Instead, the ground has been laid for the nursing crisis to worsen.

“Nursing staff urgently need more people to join their ranks and they want to be fairly rewarded for their work. After a decade of real-terms pay cuts, an above inflation pay rise and additional salary top-up worth several thousand pounds is what our profession is demanding from government this year.”

Page last updated - 06/03/2024