"There is too much goodwill in nursing, we are taken for granted" - what nurses really think of one per cent pay rise

I think it would be fair to say the mood of all nurses at the moment is really disappointed – but not surprised, because many of us don’t feel valued by this government.

Thursday, 11th March 2021, 6:00 am
Sheffield nurses and healthcare workers have been involved in the battle against Covid - and now are delivering vaccines

I think it has been very clear in media reports and from family and friends who have either worked in hospitals or been ill that if you are a secondary care nurse, or an acute nurse, you have really been at the sharp end this past year. You have had the Covid patients come in, you have been in a very dangerous environment, a very traumatic environment and although you didn’t do what you did for the money, you obviously should be getting a pay rise, and be acknowledged, and recognised, for it.

Practice nurses are in a different position. Practice nurses do not get generally get paid in the same way as hospital nurses – so there is a divide between those who will get the one per cent pay rise and those who won’t get the one per cent. GPs pay practice nurse salaries based on what they can afford, we aren’t part of the pay review body pay rise. So some GPs will say “there is a national pay body award and we will match it” but we sit outside the NHS proper when it comes to pay.

You could say that we haven’t been in the really dangerous environments, but we’ve still been seeing patients face to face. We’ve been doing the baby jabs, smear tests, dressings and blood tests, which are still essential. Some practice nurses have felt that when a lot of health services moved online, a lot of what we’ve done has been face to face, with the potential that those patients had Covid.

This has not been at the forefront of media stories, is rarely acknowledged and it is certainly likely to go unrewarded financially.

There are now talks of going on strike, but I don’t think it will happen. Nurses historically are not very good at taking such action. The last one I can remember was in the late 1980s or early 1990s. A much better thing for nurses to do in reaction to this pay rise would be to vote in the May elections, and not vote Conservative, getting their message home in a different way.Going on strike means leaving your patients, as well as your colleagues. If your patients are struggling and you leave them to take up your right to strike – they could die, obviously more so in the acute trusts. That’s a really tough call for anyone to have to make, and maybe not the right one at this time.

Many people in the NHS are too tired, too tired to be angry enough to go on strike but that does not mean the outrage isn’t there. This has really hurt people and maybe they should use the May elections to strike back, rather than to strike? I don’t know how many nurses, healthcare and social care workers, porters, cleaners, admin and clerical workers there are but it is millions. If they all voted that would make a bigger difference.

Some people say there is too much goodwill in nursing. It is because we care about our patients more than we care about our salary but that does not mean it should always be taken for granted. Nadine Dorries said we don’t need a pay rise because we love our jobs, not quite as bad as saying we went into nursing to marry a doctor.

You would like to think that somebody who had been ill with Covid – and our Prime Minister Boris Johnson was – would use his power to address this.

If Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that was all there was in the budget, surely he could have overridden that because he has experienced it, he was in an intensive care unit. Of all people, he knows what NHS staff were doing for their patients to keep them alive. But he hasn’t acted, because he is of the moment, and that moment has now passed.

There are nearly 130,000 people dead from Coronavirus, with more to come, and that’s if you interpret the figures the way the Government does. Yet despite this, Boris has got the vaccine boost in the polls, and so he has moved on. But it is practice nurses who are now giving people the vaccines.

A recent NHSE webinair spoke of mass vaccination sites delivering 25 per cent of the vaccinations, so primary care must have done the rest, more than 15 million in three months, which is incredible.

It shouldn’t be a competition between primary and secondary care because we have all stepped up in our different ways and done what was asked of us, because we are nurses, that is what we do.

Equally, we should all be valued by the government and any pay award should be built into the Network contract so practice nurses and HCAs can benefit, but most of all we should not take this disappointment quietly. We do have a voice, and a vote.