How much do nurses get paid? NHS pay called ‘laughable’ as nurses plan strikes, average UK nurses salary explained

The Royal College of Nursing is expected to announce this week that its members have voted to strike over pay, pushing for the first-ever strike ballot in their 106-year history.

According to a report by The Telegraph, nurses in the UK are preparing to strike over a pay dispute. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) - which is like the nurses’ union - will reportedly announce this week that its board has voted to action this strike over salaries.

However, counting is reportedly still ongoing but RCN officials expect that of the 300,000+ members present, enough have voted for industrial action. But what sort of salaries are NHS nurses receiving to warrant this response?

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Here’s how much NHS nurses are paid, why RCN would strike for it, and what that means for the UK.

"Tired doctors make mistakes" this image taken from a protest almost a decade ago still seems to ring true today.
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How much do nurses get paid?

The NHS distributes salaries according to a banding system that was introduced in 2004, there are three bands: Band 5, Band 6 and Band 7. Newly qualified nurses begin at Band 5 and it is reported that “most nurses” operate in Bands 5 and 6 while Band 7 is reserved for those in higher management positions.

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RCN estimates that as it stands an average NHS nurse’s pay is roughly £34,000. According to Nurses.Co.Uk, salaries based on the banding scale are as follows:

Band 5 – £27,055 to £32,934

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A general view of the emergency department at University College Hospital after the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), which represents close to half a million nurses, announced nurses have voted to strike in the majority of NHS employers in a row over pay, the first UK-wide strike action in its 106-year history.

Band 6 – £33,706 to £40,588

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Band 7 – £41,659 to £47,672

Why are nurses striking in the UK?

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The nurses’ union reported that nurses have suffered ‘real-term pay cuts of 20%’ since 2010 and the damage shows as 25,000 nursing staff have left the register in the past year alone.

Reports indicate that nurses are disgruntled at their pay and conditions offered by the NHS - and by extension, the government - especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic that left many NHS workers worn down and demoralised after the record high rates of sickness and reports of staff quitting or retiring prematurely.

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How much of a pay rise do nurses want?

In 2022, most NHS workers were given a flat £1,400 wage increase and the government then offered nurses a 3% pay increase - a seemingly good offer until it’s noted that this is less than a third of the existing inflation rate in the UK.

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The RCN reported that the 3% rise would amount to a mere extra 72p per hour for the average nurse and leave other nurses with a £1,600 deficit. Therefore, the RCN is campaigning for a pay rise of 5 per cent above inflation.

How will the NHS strikes affect the UK?

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If NHS nurses go on mass strikes then it would likely destabilise patient care and increase waiting times for operations - but reports state that emergency care services would be exempt from the strike.

Pat Cullen, the RCN general secretary, said: “Our strike action will be as much for patients as it is for nurses – we have their support in doing this.”

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The Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden confirmed if the strikes take place then the NHS would make ‘essential’ or ‘emergency care’ a priority but acknowledged it would impact other services - it remains of concern what the impact could be on patients and those close to them.



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