‘Time to overhaul’ NHS nurses’ pay system, researchers urge


A new report backs calls to overhaul the UK nurses ‘pay system as it finds nurses’ pay has fallen in real terms by 5% on average over the past decade.

The report concluded that there was a need to improve the way nurses’ pay is determined and to assess whether the current NHS pay system remains on target.

The conclusions of the report – Long-term compensation for nurses: what’s next? – follow similar recommendations from the independent NHS pay review body as part of its report to ministers for 2021-2022 pay awards.

The new research was carried out by researchers at the Health Foundation’s REAL center, which provides analysis to support better long-term decision-making in health and social services.

Released today, its report highlighted how nurses’ compensation has been held back by obstacles over the past 10 years, such as government-imposed caps as well as inflation rates.

He said the latest NHS pay restructuring was the Agenda for Change reform over 15 years ago which saw nurses receive a “substantial pay rise”.

However, he found that between March 2011 and March 2021, NHS nurses saw their pay drop by 5%, despite a 13% increase in income, due to consumer price inflation.

“Ultimately, the report underscores the need for a comprehensive NHS workforce strategy”

James buchan

The government-imposed seven-year public sector salary cap, which ended in 2017, has resulted in a “significant drop” in the remuneration of nurses, compared to average incomes across the economy, he added.

Meanwhile, compared to the incomes of nurses in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, incomes in the United Kingdom were lower.

The report underscored the importance of assessing the NHS pay system in the context of the NHS post-Covid-19 recovery plan and the global nursing shortage.

The report identified five areas where the remuneration system could be improved.

These were salary increases, to “better recognize” more qualified staff, including advanced practitioners; pay supplements for jobs that are more difficult to fill or in areas with a high cost of living; an assessment of the current compensation system and how it supported pay equity; more flexibility in pension payments to keep nurses longer; and address the ’emerging divergence’ in NHS pay processes in the four UK countries.

“If nurses are not valued for the essential work they do, patients suffer.”

MRC spokesperson

With respect to government decision-making, the report found that too often the government has “delayed”, “staggered” or “capped” pay for an extended period of time in order to reduce the payroll.

He said the NHS Pay Review Body played a “vital role” in assessing nurses’ pay and that the government should heed its findings.

He also urged policymakers to ensure that nurses’ compensation is at the ‘front and center’ of policies supporting the recovery of Covid-19.

The report comes as protest continues against the 2021-2022 pay awards, which saw nurses in England and Wales receive a 3% pay rise, while most nurses in Scotland received 4%.

Reflecting on the report’s findings, a spokesperson for the Royal College of Nursing said: “Fair wages for nurses cannot wait. The result of years of government inaction is that our workforce is depleted when we need it most. If nurses aren’t appreciated for the essential work they do for safety, patients suffer. “

Professor James Buchan, Visiting Senior Researcher at the Health Foundation and one of the report’s authors, said: “Our report points out that the average earnings of nurses have seen a 5% reduction in real terms of their wages over the past year. the last decade.

“While nurses’ pay largely followed the economy-wide average salary between 1988 and 2009, the government-imposed seven-year public sector pay gap that ended in 2017 resulted in a significant pay cut. “

He said the pandemic had only “heightened concerns” about nurses’ workload, retention, motivation and longer-term supply.

Mr Buchan questioned whether, in the current climate, the latest salary award was an ‘adequate reward for nurses’ for efforts during Covid-19.

He said: ‘It has been 17 years since the last major change to the overall NHS salary structure, the Reform Change Program, which has dramatically increased the incomes of many nurses. It is therefore time to review the current system.

Mr Buchan added that the report highlighted areas where the UK could improve its pay review system for nurses.

He concluded: ‘Ultimately, the report underscores the need for a comprehensive NHS workforce strategy that recognizes staff compensation as a powerful driver of nurse motivation and retention, and places the Compensation of nurses at the forefront of policies to support the post-Covid recovery of the NHS. . “

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