Nurses lose out as doctors win 2.5%

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Nurses were told yesterday that they will receive the lowest public sector pay settlement of 1 per cent across the board with an additional award of between 0.5 per cent and 2 per cent to be negotiated locally.

It gives a staff nurse a rise of about £100 a year while a junior consultant stands to receive nearly £1,000.

Hospital doctors are to receive a national settlement of 2.5 per cent as the Government backed down on imposing local pay bargaining on them in the face of a campaign against it and the threat of industrial action.

This threat was withdrawn last night but GPs, who are to receive a 3 per cent increase, stepped up their campaign over out-of- hours work. They are now threatening sanctions if the Department of Health does not improve its offer on night calls.

Christine Hancock, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: "This is not enough. Inflation has gone up, average pay has gone up and there are growing nursing shortages. What matters now is that the money is paid in full to each and every nurse. Both local and national pay come from a publicly funded NHS."

Bob Abberley of the health union Unison described the 1 per cent rise as "an appalling national scandal".

He said: "The nurses have been betrayed by this Government. A 1 per cent increase will give a staff nurse an insulting £2.17 extra a week." The union is launching a national campaign to force the Government to offer at least 2.5per cent.

An RCN spokesman said that it was not even clear whether hard-up NHS trusts would pay the minimum 0.5 per cent and whether or not the Government had the power to force them to do so.

"From April there is a 4.3 per cent increase in the NHS budget made up of 3 per cent efficiency savings and 1.3 per cent of new money. There is more than enough money for the trusts to pay the full 3 per cent. The award is extremely disappointing when nursing activity has done an awful lot to produce the increase in the productivity in the hospitals which Mrs Bottomley is so proud of."

Doreen Norris, senior staff nurse in the paediatric accident and emergency department at Lewisham hospital, south London, said: "This will drive morale even lower. Basic salary for a staff nurse is £11,320 - this will not cover the increase in mortgages or taxes. If they can find the money for doctors they can find it for nurses."

A staff nurse (grade D) earning £11,320 will get £11,435, a rise of £115, and a sister on £13,640 will get £13,770. From April, no consultant will earn less than £40,620 - the current minimum is £39,625.

It seems clear that nurses, already demoralised by staff shortages and short-term contracts and in no mood to fight, have born the brunt of the consultants' powerful opposition to local pay bargaining. Since the summer they have shown every sign of beingprepared to do battle with the Government.

While the British Medical Association responded tepidly to the 2.5 per cent award, there is no doubt that it is claiming victory. One aspect will be negotiated locally. It relates to 5 per cent of consultants who have already opted out and negotiate their pay directly with their managers. This group is being allowed to negotiate increases of up to 5 per cent.

But as the hospital doctors' dispute fades, the GPs responded angrily. Dr Ian Bogle, chairman of the BMA GPs' committee, sought an urgent meeting with the Secretary of State on out-of-hours working. "In the meantime, the committee will be taking steps toprepare for action in its battle to prevent the demise of the out-of-hours service.

"I am bitterly disappointed that the review body report and the Government's announcement do not provide a solution to the growing crisis facing the GPs' night-visits system."

The GPs say there must be extra money to fund the increased demand for home visits and have already rejected a government scheme to pay them £2,000 a year and £9 per visit instead of the £45 that senior GPs now receive for going to patients' homes.

t Dentists, who are to receive 2.5 per cent, said that the award would have little effect on the financial viability of practices. The profession was still waiting for the Government to announce its plans on the future of dentistry.