NHS staff plead for public sector pay parity

10 Oct 02
The salaries of hundreds of thousands of NHS staff must be moved closer to those of teachers and police officers or they will leave the service, health unions warned this week.

11 October 2002

In joint evidence to the nurses' and allied health professionals pay review body – the independent group that recommends annual pay rises for nurses and therapists – Unison and the Royal College of Nursing called for next April's pay rise to 'bridge the gap' with other public servants.

Unison's head of nursing, Pete Lowe, said the NHS could not risk losing more essential workers because of low pay. 'This year's evidence to the pay review body highlights the need to bridge the gap between nursing staff and other key workers such as teachers and police, who typically earn 10% to 14% more,' he said.

Comparatively lower starting salaries were encouraging newly qualified health care professionals to seek alternative careers.

'It is a growing cause for concern that one third of students completing their nurse training fail to register. But when you consider the starting salary of just £16,000 a year, you can begin to understand why. We must act to ensure that nursing is seen not only as a worthwhile career but as a rewarding one too,' Lowe said.

He also called for health care assistants to be regraded to a C grade, increasing their starting wages from £9,735 to £13,040.

The unions acknowledged that the review body was unlikely to award across-the-board rises of 10% or more in one year but they urged the body to make a start on closing the gap.

Next April's rise could be the last before the new NHS pay system – known as Agenda for Change – is implemented. Unions and employers' representatives held three days of intensive talks last week to resolve outstanding problems.

Most staff will see their basic pay rise as a result of the new system, bringing salaries closer to those of other public sector workers. It is believed the sides have struck a pay agreement worth around 10% over three years, to be introduced following the full implementation of Agenda for Change.

This would allow breathing space for changes to be agreed to the pay review body system.


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