UK house prices rose six times more than nurses’ pay over last decade, Royal College of Nurses warns

A union is demanding a 12.5 per cent pay rise for NHS nurses after finding the increase in average house prices over the last decade had been six times that of an experienced practitioner’s pay.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) accused the government of perpetuating an injustice against nurses and said it should instead “tip the scales” in their favour. A planned 1 per cent basic pay hike was not enough, the union said.

The RCN cited analysis by the consultants London Economics, which found the total pay of a nurse in the NHS’s band five with seven years’ experience had risen only 9 per cent since 2011, from £32,440 to £35,340. Meanwhile, average house prices had gone up 55 per cent, from £165,600 to £256,400.

Total pay includes overtime, unsociable hours and on-call pay.

Experienced healthcare assistants and practitioners in lower bands – three and four – saw their pay rise by 12 and 9 per cent respectively over the decade, well below the increase in retail price index inflation, which was 31 per cent.

Graham Revie, chair of the RCN’s trade union committee, said: “The government needs to tip the scales in nursing’s favour to stop this injustice.

“The proposed 1 per cent pay rise won’t come close to remedying the suppression of nursing salaries over the past 10 years. It is officially a pay cut now that inflation has risen above 1 per cent as expected.”

And the union’s acting general secretary, Pat Cullen, added: “The impact of nursing staff being priced out of the neighbourhoods where they work is devastating not just for them but their patients and patients’ families.

“Communities in which nursing staff can’t afford to live are communities at risk of poor health and patient care.”

All UK nursing staff should get a 12.5 per cent pay rise, the union insisted.

The Independent has contacted the Department of Health and Social Care and the Treasury for comment.

Ministers have faced widespread criticism for their decision to implement only a 1 per cent pay rise for NHS staff, having spent more than a year expressing their thanks and admiration for health workers’ efforts in tackling the coronavirus crisis.

In March, more than 250,000 NHS employees reported having been made ill by work-related stress during the pandemic, while one in five said they had considered leaving the service.

NHS bands – what do they mean?

Here’s what duties the RCN says these staff can expect to perform

  • A band three healthcare assistant may have an important role in the accident and emergency department or the operating theatre
  • A band four assistant practitioner’s job can involve administering catheters and managing wounds
  • Most nurses are in band five, and their seniority is on the level of administrators who run GP practices, according to the NHS website. They may work in intensive care, mental health or another area, and can be responsible for monitoring patients and administering medicine

Meanwhile, one of the country’s biggest unions is warning that health workers employed by private companies may miss out on that 1 per cent rise promised by ministers to NHS staff.

Unison said in a statement: “Unison is calling on all private companies running health service contracts to pledge at least to match any government pay rise for workers directly employed by the NHS.

“Ministers should also increase funding to trusts to end the growing gap between the salaries of NHS staff and colleagues employed by private firms. Unison wants NHS trusts and boards to grant new contracts only to companies that pledge to equal health service pay rates.”

Outsourcing giants “must also improve sick pay, overtime payments and annual leave allocation in line with NHS terms and conditions”, the union said.