Big pay awards for new `super-nurses'

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The Independent Online
`SUPER-NURSES' could earn up to pounds 40,000 under a new pay structure to be announced today by Tony Blair in a move to soften his attack on the public sector. He will claim the Government's drive to recruit more nurses has been a success and will offer the nurses a four-tier pay system, enabling those at the bottom to rise to the top.

Nurses will be paid in four new grades: as health-care assistants; registered practitioners; senior registered practitioners and consultant practitioners.

The higher pay for super nurses could be as divisive as it has proved within the teaching profession but Mr Blair will make it clear on an NHS visit to Yorkshire to highlight the Government's commitment to the health service that the plans are not about nursing at the top of the profession.

"It is about making the whole profession of nursing better," said a Downing Street spokesman. Mr Blair will be accompanied by Frank Dobson, Secretary of State for Health, who will announce the recruitment drive has led to an extra 1,000 nurses in the NHS and 3,000 extra nurses in training.

The nurses have their own pay review body and the new pay structure enabling them to gain promotion within a "single spine" may not be in place for next year's recommendations, but it underlines Mr Blair's rejection of the BMA's protests about too much change in the health service.

Ministers were alarmed at the loss of nurses from the NHS because of traditionally low pay rates. Some deserted because of the unsocial hours, while others left for higher pay in the private sector. "The new single- pay spine aims to sweep away the artificial glass ceilings which have held this profession back," said the spokesman.

The Government is seeking to encourage former nurses to return to the NHS as part of its efforts to fulfil its commitment to cut waiting-lists by 100,000 from the total inherited from the Tories. Shortages of nurses are hampering ministers in achieving that goal.

The extra money pumped into the NHS will enable the Government to hire an extra 15,000 nurses and provide 6,000 more training places. Downing Street said by the end of the year an extra 4,000 nurses will have been hired since Labour came to power.

"We are setting out a strategy to make nursing more attractive with more flexible training, more opportunities," the spokesman added.