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NHS nurses’ fury over 1% pay rise: ‘The whole nation should be angry, it’s an attack on patients’

The i 05/03/2021 Claudia Tanner
a person holding a sign: Psychiatric nurse Matt Tasey is angry about the proposed 1% pay rise for nurses (Photo: Matt Tasey) © Provided by The i Psychiatric nurse Matt Tasey is angry about the proposed 1% pay rise for nurses (Photo: Matt Tasey)

Nurses have hit out at the proposed 1 per cent pay rise for NHS staff in England, with one calling it “an attack on patients as well as staff”.

The Department of Health has made the recommendation to the independent panel that advises on NHS salaries.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) called the proposed rise “pitiful” and argued nurses should be getting 12.5 per cent more.

The organisation’s general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said the increase equates to just £3.50 more per week in take-home pay for an experienced nurse.

There are fears that the NHS pay rise row could worsen staff shortages just as the health service faces biggest backlog on record.

The RCN has threatened that its members will go on strike over the issue and has announced a £35m fund to to support members who would lose income during industrial action.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said NHS “heroes” deserve more money but the Government insisted 1 per cent was “what’s affordable” given how hard the coronavirus crisis has hit public finances, when we have the heaviest public borrowing since World War Two. 

The backlash comes after it was announced there £30bn less in the health budget in day-to-day spending. The Government say this is emergency Covid-19 spending that won’t be needed but the Office for Budget Responsibility chief said there is no additional resources’ for things like delayed operations. 

‘I work two jobs, sacrificing time with family’

Psychiatric nurse Matt Tasey has worked for the NHS for 13 years. He says he is “livid” about the pay rise. “The NHS has been underfunded for the last 10 years, but staff have never felt as angry as they do now,” he said. “After the year we have been through, it’s almost criminal. Staff risked their lives and many have died… and for what, 1 per cent?

“We don’t need clapping, we need the pay we deserve… the Government is full of empty gestures. Boris was treated by the NHS with Covid, where is the empathy?”

The 30-year-old, whose wife is also a nurse, works full time in a hospital and at the weekend works Amazon delivery shifts to provide for his family.

“I have a stressful job and I should spend my weekends recharging my batteries and spending time with my seven-year-old daughter. My wife is expecting too. But I’m delivering or doing extra hospital shifts.

“I know too many nurses who are struggling and needing food banks.”

Matt, from Chesterfield, Derbyshire, said poor pay on top of staff shortages will drive more nurses to leave the profession.

“In intensive care units, there should be a nurse-to-patient ratio of at least 1:1, but in some hospitals we are seeing 1:6. It’s clearly unsafe.

“The public should be angry about the 1 per cent pay rise because it’s an attack on patients as well as staff. We know that low pay means low staff morale and staff leaving, which means lower care for patients. It’s despicable.”

‘I had a breakdown – I felt undervalued’

Kirsty Brewerton worked as an A&E nurse for five years then had a breakdown. She says the reasons were being too stretched while being paid too little.

“The 1 per cent pay rise is beggar’s belief,” she said. “I worked in the resuscitation ward, along with a doctor, and there was meant to be one nurse for one patient, but I was frequently looking after three very poorly patients. I was paid £12.50 an hour, and that’s before tax, student loan deductions etc, and I had three people’s lives in my hands. I felt extremely stressed and undervalued.

“It’s a highly skilled profession. I trained for three years and got a degree and I was studying for a masters. It feels like you’ve having the mick taken out of you.”

Unable to cope with the stress, 34-year-old took a part time role as a clinical sister working on general wards.

Kirsty, from Coventry, said many nurses are not hopeful the staff shortages and pressures will improve. “Hearing about the £30bn cut to the NHS and then this disappointing pay rise is a double whammy,” she said. “The NHS was already on its knees with a lack of resources and staff shortages before the pandemic. You doubt anything is really going to change in the NHS.”

‘This is a pay cut not a rise’

Nurse and single mother Samantha Simon is “really cross” about the news and says she doesn’t have annual holidays. “That would be a luxury, it’s not something I’d have every year. I have to be really careful with my money. My daughter will be going to university and to support her I will have to really scrimp and save.”

The nurse case manager says many nurses are angry at the pay rise especially given the billions “wasted” on PPE contracts. “They can find the money when they want to, to waste on unsuitable PPE and a track and trace system that wasn’t fit for purpose.”

The 49-year-old, from East Sussex, said it’s time to end the narrative that nurses are in a “caring profession so should crack on without decent pay”.

“You here that nursing is a vocation, a calling and that we do it because we care about people,” she said. “Yes we do care about people, but it’s a profession, a highly skilled one, and we deserve to be paid properly.

“We’ve not had a proper pay rise for years. This is not a pay rise, it’s a pay cut when you take inflation into account.”

Do you have a real life story? Email claudia.tanner@inews.co.uk.

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