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Nurses to hold a ‘summer of action’ over government's measly 3% pay offer

‘This award will not be enough to prevent an exodus of exhausted NHS nursing staff,’ Royal College of Nursing warns

NURSES will participate in a “summer of action” across Britain to demand fair pay, their union announces today.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is organising demonstrations across the country and in Northern Ireland in the run-up to its annual national congress in Liverpool this September.

A poll commissioned by the union found that 51 per cent of the public think that the Tory government’s 3 per cent award is too little, while 62 per cent think there are too few nurses to provide safe care to patients.

The Welsh government has also announced a 3 per cent rise, while a 4 per cent increase will be implemented in Scotland.

The RCN has been campaigning for a fully funded 12.5 per cent pay rise for all nursing staff.

But the Tory offer, only a slight improvement on its previous 1 per cent proposal, will come out of the existing NHS budget.

The RCN said that the 3 per cent rise represents a real-terms pay cut and leaves experienced staff £200 worse off than they were a decade ago.

General secretary Pat Cullen said: “We know this award will not be enough to prevent an exodus of exhausted NHS nursing staff, and ministers must now be honest about the impact this would have on patient care.

“The government is failing to give the NHS the money it truly needs. This current game of smoke and mirrors is dangerous for patients and nursing staff who care for them.

“If ministers ignore the voice of nursing, they ignore the voice of patients — and that is something we, as nurses, will never allow.”

The summer of action is set to include a demonstration in Hove and a candlelit vigil in Norfolk, while a campaign van will travel through Wales.

The British Medical Association is consulting tens of thousands of senior doctors in England on the pay offer and whether or not they wish to take industrial action.

Unison confirmed yesterday that it has launched a consultation of its NHS members on the award, which it said does not meet the real living wage of £9.50 per hour for the lowest-paid health service workers and widens the gap between those at the top and bottom of the scale.

The union’s head of health Sara Gorton said: “All health staff deserve equal recognition for their contribution to the NHS and their efforts during the pandemic.

“Missing the living wage target by 1.5p per hour shows the government ignored the lowest paid, for all the Prime Minister’s talk of levelling up.”

Keep Our NHS Public co-chair Dr John Puntis said that NHS staff had the right to expect a restorative pay rise in light of a decade of austerity and their huge efforts during the pandemic.

“Valuing staff by paying them properly is essential for morale, recruitment, retention and good patient care,” he said.

He said all health and care staff “are justified in considering taking industrial action as the only way to bring pressure to bear on a government that hypocritically claps but does not deliver.”

The calls came after a letter from NHS Providers to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Health Secretary Sajid Javid and NHS chief executive Simon Stevens warned that the health service is now as stretched as it was at the height of the pandemic in January.

The organisation warned that the situation is likely to get worse and called on the government to “make the right decisions” over the next month as it finalises NHS funding for the second half of the financial year.

Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said the letter painted a grim picture, which he said was the product of a decade of underspending and underinvestment by the Tories.

“On top of this, the health service has had to grapple with a once-in-a-century pandemic for which it was woefully underprepared for due to ministers’ lack of planning,” he added.

“The depth of the crisis facing the NHS as we go into autumn and winter requires an enormous injection of resources and a breath of political imagination to engage with the health unions to chart a blueprint for recovery for the 2020s.”

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