Beverley Malone: Nurses must earn more, Mr Brown

From a speech by the Royal College of Nursing's general secretary at their conference in Harrogate
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The Independent Online

What are the barriers for nursing and nurses? Poor pay is just the first one that comes to mind. Heavy workloads, more patients and greater acuity. Lack of support from employers and managers and, of course, nursing shortages. Because we all know, without enough skilled nurses to do the job, good-quality patient care and health service reforms just will not happen.

Nursing staff look at their workloads and responsibilities and the continuing education they must do to keep up to date. Then they look at their pay packets and say: "This does not compute."

We're not talking about nurses who think they should be able to afford to run a Porsche on their NHS salary, nice as that might be. We're talking about nurses who think they should be able to afford to pay the everyday bills, like housing and childcare costs, without having to do extra shifts.

Pay is the single most effective way to increase recruitment, improve retention and demonstrate to nurses that they are valued. I'm not convinced that the 3.6 per cent increase coming in April pay packets is going to make nurses feel appreciated. I certainly haven't met any nurses who are convinced.

We're getting impatient. We've told the Government we need £3bn over the next five years. Investing in nursing and investing in patient care are two sides of the same coin. We know what's good for nurses is good for patients – and vice versa.

We welcome the Chancellor's commitment to the NHS. We are delighted to see health emerge as the number-one priority in last week's Budget. But we still can't be complacent about where the money will go. Patients and nurses everywhere need to start feeling the benefits now.

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