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Half of England's nursing staff could quit as analysis reveals impact of decade-long attack on pay

22 Mar 2024

We are reiterating the urgency of a substantial pay rise for every member of the nursing workforce.

Nurses in clinical setting

Real-terms cuts to NHS wages since 2010/11 have been so severe that hundreds of thousands of nurses are effectively working 5 days a month for free, as new analysis shows a quarter has been cut from pay packets in the last decade.  

The analysis, commissioned by the RCN and carried out by London Economics, is released alongside new damning figures from an RCN cost of living survey of almost 11,000 nursing staff in England.

The survey revealed more than half of respondents said they are likely or very likely to quit nursing in the next 5 years due to low pay and cost of living pressures. 

More than two thirds admitted to rationing gas and electricity during the last winter, and almost half of the respondents said financial pressures are having a considerable impact on their mental health. 

The RCN said the findings from the analysis and the survey demonstrate how urgent it is for the government to deliver a fair pay award when it is due on 1 April this year.  

In its submission to the NHS Pay Review Body, the RCN demanded a "substantial and above inflation" pay rise along with an additional salary top-up worth "several thousand pounds" going to every member of nursing staff. The College says this would help stem the exodus of nursing staff from the NHS and combat chronic workforce shortages. 

RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive Professor Pat Cullen said: “This new analysis exposes the scale of the government’s sustained attack on nursing. Over a decade of below inflation pay offers, followed last year by the lowest award in the entire public sector, have caused hardship and forced thousands to consider quitting altogether.   

“When nursing pay is deliberately undermined in this way, so too is patient care. There are tens of thousands of nurse vacancies across England’s NHS and yet our most experienced nurses are being forced out of the profession – just when the health service needs them most,” she added. 

“The next NHS pay award should have been ready for the new and imminent financial year – but our members will be kept in the dark again until the government confirms its plans.  

“Ministers must commit to a substantial pay rise for every member of nursing staff. That’s how to begin delivering pay justice for a profession so routinely undervalued. If they fall short once again, they will be exposing tens of thousands to further hardship and exacerbate an already dangerous staffing crisis.”  

Page last updated - 22/03/2024