Government’s ‘embarrassing’ proposed pay rise for nurses a ‘kick in the teeth’, say Portsmouth NHS staff and trade union

Portsmouth nurses are calling the government’s proposed pay rise for NHS staff an ‘insult’, saying that the suggested increase is ‘a kick in the teeth’ for healthcare workers.

Friday, 5th March 2021, 5:10 pm
Updated Friday, 5th March 2021, 5:14 pm
A nurse wearing scrubs holds a placard calling for a pay rise for NHS nursing staff. Credit: Getty Images

They have spoken out following the announcement that the Department of Health is recommending a one per cent pay rise for NHS staff.

The Office for Budgetary Responsibility predicts that due to inflation this year, this would in fact amount to a real terms pay cut.

Dame Donna Kinnair, the Royal College of Nursing general secretary, said that the pay rise would amount to only £3.50 per week for an experienced nurse.

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Bev Vaughan

Charlie, a cancer nurse in Portsmouth said: ‘It’s an insult. We just want to be respected.

‘This is a kick in the teeth for everyone - we’re not in this for the money and we care about what we do, but they’re forcing us to put a price on it.’

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Charlie was a third year nursing student when he was drafted in early at the start of the pandemic, and worked through the first two waves as a qualified nurse.

After catching Covid six weeks ago, Charlie had to take some time off to recover but is now back at work.

He said: ‘The hospital has been amazing, my trust has looked after us, my colleagues and my management are amazing, everyone looks after each other.

‘But our political leaders just don’t know what we’re going through, and the blame needs to be put on the right people - the government.’

Charlie is one of many NHS workers who are worried that the news will deter those considering a career as a nurse.

He said: ‘The one per cent pay rise will put future nurses off. No-one will want to be a healthcare worker if they see that this is how we’re treated.’

Retired nurse Bev Vaughan is also concerned about the impact the news could have on a new generation of NHS staff.

She said: ‘This won’t encourage youngsters and might be a deal breaker for those thinking about going into nursing.’

Bev was matron at QA before her retirement last year, having worked for 40 years in the NHS in older people’s medicine and respiratory care.

Like Charlie, she says that the need for an adequate pay rise isn’t about greed, but about ‘being respected and valued’.

She said: ‘The pay rise falls woefully short, and I fully support the RCN for a pay rise in the region of 15 per cent. I understand the country’s in an economic slump but a realistic rise should be much higher.

‘Nurses are not greedy, but they deserve more - they do it because they want to, it is a vocation for them. They should have the proper remuneration.’

Although she had initially retired at the age of 55, Bev came back to the NHS for a few weeks to offer help at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak.

She said: ‘The NHS is a fantastic organisation to be a part of, but the support the government is giving them is just embarrassing and sad.

‘This pay rise is an insult. This current government said they were grateful last year but it just falls on hollow ground - it doesn’t value nurses’ work.’

Diana, an intensive care nurse in Portsmouth, said: ‘It’s a slap in the face, like that’s all they think we deserve.

‘There’s a real distance between the government and the nursing staff - if they knew what we were doing they wouldn’t offend us like that.

‘I feel deflated and really annoyed. It doesn’t make us feel appreciated.’

Diana worked as a nursing student throughout the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak and became fully qualified in December.

She said: ‘The number of patients we saw in the January wave was awful. We were at breaking point, it was really tough.

‘The government saying thank you to us just feels really fake. To then be told about this is just a slap in the face.

‘Everyone is so upset, and we are coming to terms with the pure hell we saw in January so this brought up all those feelings again.

‘It’s insensitive, pointless, and backhanded. It’s an insult, after what we’ve all had to see and deal with.’

Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP, added his voice to those of NHS staff criticising the proposed pay rise.

He said: ‘It is beyond belief that this government claps for our NHS heroes one minute then hands them a real-terms pay cut the next.

‘This is a kick in the teeth for hard-working frontline staff in Portsmouth and across the country, who have gone above and beyond to care for our communities during the pandemic.

‘NHS staff deserve better. The independent NHS Pay Review Body should recommend a real pay rise for our healthcare heroes and the government must honour it.’

Trade unions in the area have also spoken out about the proposed pay rise, with the GMB Portsmouth group calling one per cent a ‘paltry insult’.

Stuart Fegan, senior organiser for GMB Southern Region, said: ‘For all of our NHS members who were working during the pandemic, it’s an absolute kick in the teeth.

‘We have claps for NHS workers organised but it hasn’t translated through - this is about the appreciation and the value we place on the people doing public services.

‘We will wait to see the final position from the Department of Health and will be ready to campaign and organise our members to resist this.’

A Portsmouth nurse, who did not want to be named, said: 'On behalf of a lot of my colleagues a strike would be exactly what we would need to be taken seriously and valued.'

Health minister Nadine Dorries has defended the proposal by saying that the government cannot afford to give NHS staff in England a greater pay rise.

Stuart said: ‘It’s nonsense that this is all the government can afford, a massive disappointment.

‘We expect to see a public backlash, because this is completely unacceptable.’