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Monday, 23 October, 2000, 11:19 GMT 12:19 UK
Nurses demand 'substantial' pay hike
Some 20,000 nursing posts are vacant in the NHS
The government must give nurses substantial pay rises or risk the failure of its NHS reform plans, nurses leaders have warned.

The Royal College of Nursing said more nurses will be needed if the government's NHS Plan is to be effective.

But it has warned that an increase in staff numbers can only be achieved if nurses are given a "substantial" pay boost next year.

The RCN claims are made in its submission to the Pay Review Body, which will recommend salary increases to ministers early next year.

A substantial pay rise for every nurse would kick start recruitment

Christine Hancock, RCN

In its evidence to the Review Body, the RCN said only a substantial pay award would encourage nurses to continue to work in the NHS and would entice others to take up jobs.

It also criticised policies which it said had "downgraded by stealth" the role of senior nurses.

The RCN said the number of nurses in top grades had fallen in recent years while their responsibilities had increased.

The Government has pledged to provide an extra 20,000 nurses by 2004 as part of the NHS Plan published in July.

The plan also announced the creation of "modern matrons" who would have more power on the wards.

The RCN said that the top three clinical nursing grades (Graded G, H and I) had shrunk by more than 13% in the last eight years.

Hardest hit have been the Grade G senior nursing sisters whose numbers have shrunk by 9,000, despite this grade being the level at which staff could be made matrons.

Christine Hancock
Christine Hancock wants substantial pay rises for nurses
There are now 20,000 nursing vacancies across the country, with 9,900 posts left vacant for three months or more.

Last year the NHS spent 344 million employing agency staff to cover the shortages.

Tough challenge

Christine Hancock, general secretary of the RCN, said: "At a time when nurses are in the frontline of change and facing huge pressure trying to cover 20,000 vacancies, getting enough nurses both to fill existing vacancies and to take on new roles is the toughest challenge facing the health service today.

"A substantial pay rise for every nurse would kick start recruitment, motivate nurses to return and encourage others to stay."

She added: "We need simple and effective measures that will have an immediate impact.

"While nurse morale has slightly improved, and nurses are committed to their profession, they are still dissatisfied with pay and few would recommend a career in nursing.

"We know better pay works and we cannot stand by while at the same time some nurses' pay is improved, other nurses are downgraded by stealth."

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18 Oct 00 | Health
Nursing attracts more recruits
28 Sep 00 | Health
Cost of nurses soars
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