An investigation was started by the Nursing Standard after Julia Fearon, a nursing ward manager announced publicly at a Royal College of Nursing council meeting that she was leaving the profession because of staff shortages and poor pay. After 17 years she earned just pounds 21,440 a year.
But recruitment consultants told the journal that a manager with the equivalent training and responsibility of Ms Fearon working in marketing, retail, accountancy, design and marketing could command a salary of between pounds 30,000 and pounds 100,000.
Unions warned that unless pay was addressed throughout the profession, the crisis of nursing recruitment would not be resolved. While the Government has promised an extra 15,000 nurses for the National Health Service to try to solve recruitment problems, there are currently 8,000 nursing vacancies. Of roughly 500,000 nurses nationwide, a quarter are eligible for retirement in the next two years.
Figures released earlier this month show that new admissions to the register of the regulatory body for nursing, midwifery and health visiting are at their lowest level yet.
As a nursing ward manager, Ms Fearon's responsibilities included a staff of 31, with 24-hour responsibility for her department and development of an annual business plan.
The Royal College of Nursing will present its evidence to the Pay Review Body for next year's nurses' pay award in the next few weeks.
"This story is evidence of how little our nursing managers are valued despite the huge amount of responsibility they have got." said an RCN spokeswoman. "It is time to realise that they are the role models for the future that we are in danger of losing."Reuse content