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Nursing: no mention of pay cap in Queen’s Speech

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RCN, public sector pay cap, Summer of Protest, Queen's SpeechThe Prime Minister failed to announce scrapping the public sector pay gap.

Responding to the Queen’s Speech, an occasion which normally outlines a new government’s plans, based on their manifesto, the chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, Janet Davies, said the lack of focus on the NHS suggested the government had ignored public concern about the future of the health service.

“Nursing staff and others across the NHS hoped to hear a new tone,” Davies said.

“Theresa May’s below-inflation cap on their pay does nothing to help fill the 40,000 vacant nurse jobs in England. It should have been scrapped today.

“Hospitals and community services are already short of the nursing staff needed to provide safe care.

“They are being driven out by poor pay and the unprecedented strain.

“Health and care services must fast become a priority for this government.

“We will look closely at today’s announcements on mental health and social care but the rhetoric needs to be matched with cash.

“These promises would have been easier to deliver if thousands of mental health nurses had been able to stay in their jobs in recent years.”

NHS pay has been capped at 1 per cent or less since 2010 – leaving NHS nursing staff at least £3,000 worse off as salaries have fallen by 14 per cent in real terms.

In the same time period, rent has rocketed and the price of food and utilities has gone up rapidly, as the Independent reported recently.

In a joint letter sent to the Prime Minister on 19 June, the Royal College of Nursing – the world’s largest nursing union and professional body – and 14 unions representing the NHS workforce called on the government to commit to the removal of the pay cap and address the real-terms loss of earnings when the Queen presents the legislative programme.

They warned that health and care services are becoming unsafe without the necessary staff and called on Theresa May to ‘prioritise patient safety in this changed political landscape’.

The letter said:

Dear Prime Minister,

By your own admission, austerity, and a lack of investment in the public sector was a significant factor in the general election result. Many have said that the pay freeze in the public sector was in part to blame for your failure to secure a parliamentary majority, alongside senior health leaders who agree that people who work in our NHS should be fairly rewarded for the work they do.

Organisations that represent patients and our NHS workforce are calling for the Queen’s Speech to mark a clear change in direction.

People who are working in the NHS are delivering care to the best of their ability but we are very worried that care is becoming unsafe. Our services are struggling to make do without the staff they need.

The Public Sector Pay Cap has forced professionals out of jobs they love. Those who stay are overstretched and under pressure to do ever more with less. The longstanding cap stands in the way of recruiting and retaining the best in health care. It is having a profound and detrimental effect on standards of care for people at a time when the NHS is short of staff across every discipline. This is alongside an uncertain future for EU nationals working in health and care.

Next month, our vital national service turns 69. In its seventieth year, you have the opportunity to show the country how much you value the lives of people who work in the NHS, and the people they serve.

We call on you to prioritise patient safety by guaranteeing safe staffing across all of our services and changing your policy on NHS pay. Government should remove the pay cap and address the real-terms loss of earnings so the NHS can retain and attract staff, resolve the workforce shortage and ensure safe patient care.

Yours sincerely,

Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary Royal College of Nursing; June Chandler, Lead Officer British Association of Occupational Therapists; Mick Armstrong, Chair British Dental Association; Annette Mansell Green, Head of Employment Relations British Dietetic Association; Dr Mark Porter, Chair British Medical Association; Lesley Anne Baxter, Chair British and Irish Orthoptic Society; Karen Middleton CBE, Chief Executive Chartered Society of Physiotherapy; Geoff Lester, National Negotiator Federation of Clinical Scientists; Kevin Brandstatter, Public Services Section and National Lead Organiser GMB; Dave Prentis, General Secretary UNISON; Jon Restell, Chief Executive Managers in Partnership; Steve Gillan, General Secretary Prison Officers Association; Jon Skewes, Director for Policy, Employment  Relations and Communications Royal College of Midwives; Richard Evans OBE, Chief Executive Society of Radiographers; Martin Furlong, Interim Head of  Employment Relations The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists; and Gail Cartmail, Assistant General Secretary, Unite.

So as things stand, next week the RCN will launch a summer-long protest, calling on the government to scrap the 1 per cent pay cap.

The Summer of Protest was announced at Congress this year after members voted to overwhelmingly reject government policy on nurse pay, and will see members, supported by the RCN, stage public demonstrations, lobby MPs and highlight the effect low nurse pay is having on the lives of nurses and on staffing levels.

MPs, on the other hand, received a 1.4 per cent pay rise worth more than £1,000 in April this year, taking their salaries to £76,011. It followed a 1.3 per cent rise in 2016, which followed an earlier big increase from £67,000 to £74,000. Despite ‘austerity’.

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