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  • 23 May 2024
  • 2 min read

Could a £35K starting salary for nurses solve the staffing crisis?

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Young nurses"The RCN has labelled the current Agenda for Change pay bands ‘no longer reliable’."

87% of nurses polled by the RCN felt their pay band did not reflect their education or knowledge, skills or levels of responsibility.

The Department of Health and Social Care recently ran a consultation on whether a separate pay scale for nurses would be workable.

In response, the RCN solicited the views of over 7,000 of its members and subsequently, the college advised the government that this opportunity to modernise the nursing pay structure ‘should not be overlooked’ if it was serious about tackling the recruitment crisis in nursing.

The RCN proposed that the starting salary for a registered nurse should be around £35,000 during their preceptorship, with clear progressions towards £50,000 and beyond for more advanced levels of nursing.

Nurses who gain specific qualifications or undertake specialist practice should also be rewarded with specific financial sums, suggested the college.

The RCN insists that a new pay structure would ensure nursing staff are better rewarded, and combined with a new nursing career framework, would provide nurses with clearly defined pathways to advanced career levels.

RCN General Secretary Pat Cullen said that pay bandings needed to be overhauled to 'give nursing a fresh start'.

‘Nursing is not a calling. Or a vocation. We are a profession; we are experts; we are leaders.’

‘This work [on a new pay scale] is about every nursing role – registrants and support workers; newly qualified and the more senior; and every current grade through to the chief nurse where you work’ she explained.

According to the RCN’s own figures, around 75% of its members employed by the NHS are either band 5 or band 6 – the two lowest-pay bands available for registered nurses on the current Agenda for Change (AfC) pay scale.

The college stated that the current AfC bandings, which were established in 2004, ‘are simply no longer reliable and it is creating a ripple effect through the grades as they currently stand’.

‘AfC has lost sight of our value. I want the career pathway for nursing to be smashed wide open. Whether you take on management roles or not, your knowledge and excellence as a nursing professional has to be recognised’ said RCN General Secretary Pat Cullen.

The RCN had sought a commitment to a new pay structure from the then Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay in 2023, but that deal was later rebuffed by its members.

Any recommendations for the 2024-25 pay round from the NHS Pay Review Body are expected in May 2024 at the earliest.

Please let us know what you think in the comments.

About the author

I believe people working in healthcare should be able to choose to enjoy work. That is, choose an employer who reflects their values and provides them with a sustainable career. This leads to better patient care, higher retention rates and happier working lives in this most important employment sector.

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    • Rachel Mary Mwansa one month ago
      Rachel Mary Mwansa
    • Rachel Mary Mwansa
      one month ago

      Matt Would like to know, what you think about the pride of international trained nurses who are being recruited as care ... read more

      • In terms of pride and how it feels, I imagine it is demoralising. I'm assuming this is your experience. If so, how do YOU feel about it?

        Replied by: Matt Farrah

        Personally it has not been my experience since I am a retired Head of Nursing. However I am aware of what international trained nurses go through. My thoughts about this is actually a career trap for ... read more

        Personally it has not been my experience since I am a retired Head of Nursing. However I am aware of what international trained nurses go through. My thoughts about this is actually a career trap for them and some form of cheap labour if I am allowed to say so. Thanks for your reply
        read less

        Replied by: Rachel Mary Mwansa

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