Call for substantial pay rise for nurses to address shortfall

14 Dec 00
An extra 39,000 recruits will be needed to meet the government's target of a net gain of 20,000 nurses in England by 2004, the Royal College of Nursing said this week.

15 December 2000

The prediction is made in an RCN document, Making up the difference, published this week as the nurses' pay review body finalises its recommendations on next April's pay rises.

It is believed that the body will report early next week and recommend a 3–5% rise for most nurses.

Christine Hancock, RCN general secretary, said the most effective and immediate way to address shortages was to improve nurses' pay. She called on the pay review body to recommend a 'substantial' award for all nurses and urged the government to back above-inflation rises until 2004.

'There are already a raft of measures which are beginning to have an encouraging effect in increasing nurse numbers. But governments and employers have to reduce the reality gap – nurses must experience a positive difference in their day-to-day working lives, rather than just hearing the rhetoric,' she added.

The report, prepared for the RCN by Queen Margaret University College, Edinburgh, says the government's recruitment target is an ambitious one because the NHS will lose around 90,000 nurses over the next four years through retirement and resignations. A total of 110,000 recruits will be needed to fill the gap and meet government plans for expansion.

Around half the shortfall will be offset by a planned 54,000 new nurses joining the service through training schemes.

The government is trying to lure back the estimated 73,000 qualified nurses not working in the NHS but the report maintains that only around 29,000 would return to the service.

The RCN said most returning nurses would work part time and this would push up the number to be recruited to 39,000. The shortfall could be greater following the Department of Health's admission that some of the 20,000 additional nurses will work part-time.

The department said it was confident of reaching its target. 'In the past three years nurse numbers have increased by 16,000,' it added.


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