Why nurses are “angry and upset” about the government’s 3% pay rise announcement

Nurses and NHS workers have responded to the government’s proposed 3% pay rise, with many expressing their disappointment at what the rise means after inflation.

Nurses across the country have responded with disappointment to yesterday’s NHS pay rise announcement, in which the government offered them a 3% pay rise “in recognition of their extraordinary efforts” during the pandemic.

The rise, which applies to most NHS staff including nurses, paramedics, doctors and dentists, comes after proposals for a 1% pay rise made by the Department for Health and Social Care back in March were met with widespread criticism.

Government calculations suggest that the rise would mean an additional £1000 a year for the average nurse, and £540 for porters and cleaners. But unions have pointed out that, as inflation continues over the coming year, these numbers will amount to a pay cut for many workers.  

In a statement responding to the news, Pat Cullen, general secretary and chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), described the announcement as “shambolic”.

“After a shambolic day, comes a shambolic announcement. When the Treasury expects inflation to be 3.7%, ministers are knowingly cutting pay for an experienced nurse by over £200 in real-terms.

“Hospitals and other parts of the NHS are struggling to recruit nurses and healthcare support workers. The government has been warned that many more are on the verge of leaving. With today’s decision, ministers have made it even harder to provide safe care to patients.” 

NHS workers took to the streets of London yesterday to demand a 15% pay rise.

Speaking on BBC Two’s Newsnight yesterday evening, Patricia Marquis, England director of the RCN, said members were “really angry and upset” at the announcement, adding: “Our next steps will be to consult with our members about their view on the award.

“And once we have their view – which we suspect will be to say they are unhappy about the level – we will then be considering with them what the next steps might be, which could include consideration of industrial action most certainly.”

Taking to Twitter after yesterday’s announcement, many nurses, NHS workers and supporters alike shared their anger and frustration at what the ‘pay rise’ really means for them – especially in light of their continued commitment to their jobs in the middle of a pandemic. 

Many people also mentioned how junior doctors – who were excluded from yesterday’s pay rise announcement – deserved better.

Announcing the 3% pay rise via a press release yesterday evening, the health secretary Sajid Javid said he was “pleased” to accept the recommendations of the independent pay review bodies which are responsible for working with government bodies, unions and other groups to come up with these yearly suggestions.

“NHS staff are rightly receiving a pay rise this year despite the wider public sector pay pause, in recognition of their extraordinary efforts. We asked the independent pay review bodies for their recommendations and I’m pleased to accept them in full, with a 3% pay rise for all staff in scope, from doctors and nurses to paramedics and porters.” 

Javid continued: “We will back the NHS as we focus our efforts on getting through this pandemic and tackling the backlog of other health problems that has built up. I will continue to do everything I can to support all those in our health service who are working so tirelessly to care for patients.”

The announcement comes after the government announced a public sector pay freeze for 2021-22 in November, with exceptions made for those earning underneath £24,000 a year and NHS workers. 

Images: Getty

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