For people who aren’t sure, I wanted to write to explain why nurses are striking.
Nursing is one of the lowest paid graduate jobs in the country. A newly qualified nurse will go in at £27,055 a year, but with significant debt, having worked for free for three years prior to qualifying. Whilst the ‘average’ nurse’s salary is quoted as being £33,000, over 40% of the nursing workforce are Band 5, whose pay is capped at £33,000.
There is a perception that nurses’ pay keeps increasing incrementally for the duration of their careers. This is not true. In order to progress to a different band, a nurse will need to develop experience and often additional qualifications, and then have to interview and be appointed into higher banded roles.
The higher the band, the fewer jobs there are. This is because those nurses are very experienced and highly qualified, and each promotion has additional leadership responsibilities which take nurses away from direct clinical time. This means that generally, the higher the banding, the more the split will be leadership/clinical rather than just clinical.
This is where the argument for all nurses ‘getting a better job’ falls apart. If all nurses had the aspiration of ‘getting a better job’, there wouldn’t be enough nurses to do all the essential tasks that band 5 nurses carry out day to day. Additionally, many nurses don’t want to progress to senior management roles. Band 5 is not synonymous with ‘newly qualified’. Many nurses will stay at Band 5 for their whole careers because they want to retain as much clinical contact as possible. Those nurses should not be penalised by a pay cap after only a few years into their careers.
All nurses deserve fair pay. Newly qualified nurses are not paid enough and experienced nurses are not paid enough. Society and the NHS would not survive without nurses. We have taken a significant real terms pay cut and the RCN estimates we work a day a week for free. It has to end.