Cost-of-living crisis: Nurses ‘working one day a week for free’, analysis finds

Nurses work the equivalent of one day a week for free, according to a new analysis of pay.

Researchers from London Economics, commissioned by the Royal College of Nursing, looked at pay in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland since 2010.

They found that in real terms, based on a five-day week, the salary of an experienced nurse has fallen by 20 per cent.

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A pay rise would help save NHS money because of how expensive it is to hire staff internationally, which is the main recruitment method adopted by the Government, according to the analysis.

A nurse holds the hand of an older womanA nurse holds the hand of an older woman
A nurse holds the hand of an older woman

Dr Gavan Conlon, who oversaw the research, said bringing in staff from overseas costs about £16,900 more annually than retaining a nurse, while using agency workers is around £21,300 more per year.

Around 32,000 nurses are quitting the NHS per year, at least in part because of the erosion of living standards, leaving tens of thousands of vacancies, he said.

NHS waiting lists have, in turn, been one of the main factors driving economic inactivity, with 700,000 individuals leaving the workforce since the beginning of the pandemic.

“The high costs of staff turnover suggest that staff retention is a cost-effective policy for the NHS,” Dr Conlon said.

He said the research suggested “the economy is on its knees and will never get off its knees until we pay nurses more”.

The RCN is balloting on strike action outside of Scotland, with around 300,000 members being asked if they are prepared to walk out.

A ballot of its 50,000 members in Scotland, which was already under way, has been suspended after a new pay offer.

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RCN general secretary Pat Cullen has said the UK Government’s offer of a 3 per cent wage rise “makes a difference to a nurse’s wage of 72p an hour”.

But former health secretary Therese Coffey said she was confident nurses would not get a higher pay offer.Mrs Cullen said: “This exploitation of nursing staff cannot be tolerated any longer.

“In the pandemic, the politicians urged the public to clap for carers, but now they are wilfully ignoring nursing’s astonishing efforts and expertise.

“Ministers have stubbornly resisted the requirement to address the workforce crisis, including paying nursing fairly, instead rejecting any opportunity to act. They have taken advantage of nursing’s goodwill and steadfast determination to act in the interests of their patients.

“Our members have had enough. Expecting nursing staff to work one day a week for free is totally unacceptable.”

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