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Monday, October 18, 1999 Published at 14:53 GMT 15:53 UK


Nurses: Reward experience

There is a short-fall of thousands of NHS nurses

Almost three-quarters of nurses believe they could be paid more for less effort if they quit the profession, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

Health: Background Briefing: NHS pay '99
Launching its campaign for a substantial pay rise for nurses in next year's public sector pay round, the RCN warned that a significant boost in salary was the only way to stop the continued drain of experienced nurses from the NHS.

RCN general secretary Christine Hancock said this year's increase in pay for newly-qualified nurses had boosted recruitment into the profession.

But she warned that the government must now take steps to encourage experienced staff to stay in the NHS.

She said: "The government took an important first step in tackling recruitment last year, but we can't afford to be lulled into a false sense of security.

"Many people still believe that all nurses were well rewarded last year when, in fact, only 15,000 nurses received the full 12% pay rise.

"The majority of NHS nurses only received 4.7%. This did not make up for the real-terms decreases of the previous four years."

Ms Hancock quoted from a survey commissioned by the RCN that showed three out of five NHS nurses were working in excess of their contracted hours, while nearly one third had second jobs.

The survey also showed that high staff turnover and increased use of agency staff were costing the NHS millions of pounds a year.

Short-fall of thousands

[ image: Christine Hancock says experienced nurses need a pay increase]
Christine Hancock says experienced nurses need a pay increase
The government estimated that there is a short-fall of 15,000 NHS nurses in England alone, with 6,900 vacancies lasting three months or more.

Steve Griffin, director of employment relations for the RCN, said even a one per cent reduction in the turnover of staff would save around £15m every year.

He said: "The problem we have is that the reality the nurses are facing in the NHS is poor morale and poor motivation.

"If you look at the survey pay consistently features highly amongst nurses as a way of making them feel valued."

Judith Middleton, a nurse working in an intensive care unit in London, is leaving the NHS for a £5,000 pay rise as a nurse in the Royal Navy.

She said: "I visited a military hospital and the difference in morale was huge. All the wards were fully staffed and it made a huge difference."

Her colleague Nicola Walker, who has five years' experience as a nurse, said she was planning to leave the NHS to train as a reflexologist.

She said: "I earn less money than my brother did when he started work, five years into my career."

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