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

The nurse strike on December 15 has been called the 'biggest in the history of the NHS' by some as nurses protest their pay, so just how much do nurses earn at the moment?

Thousands of nurses across Wales, Northern Ireland and England recently went on a 12-hour strike over their pay. The strike was called ‘the biggest by nurses in the history of the NHS’ and Health Minister Maria Caulfield said that around “70,000 appointments, procedures and surgeries will be lost in England due to the strike.”

The first strike took place on Thursday, 15 December with the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) estimating as many as 100,000 members in participation. The second is due to take place today (20 December) with the strike starting at 8am and finishing at 8pm.

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How much do nurses get paid?

"Tired doctors make mistakes" this image taken from a protest almost a decade ago still seems to ring true today.

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.

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

Band 6 – £33,706 to £40,588

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 7 – £41,659 to £47,672

Why are nurses striking in the UK?

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.

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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.

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.

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?

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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