Won't the Government help?


A year or two ago, the UK health authorities ran a wonderful advertising campaign in order to attract more nurses into the profession. The campaign portrayed nurses in various life-saving and life-enhancing functions. This was the tag-line:

Click here to compare pay rates!

Nursing. Have you got what it takes?

Brilliant, simple, to the point.

The only problem was that the campaign didn't work, because the Government didn't provide what it takes to get nurses nowadays: professional pay rates.

The nurse shortage in the UK got even worse. By the end of 1998, the NHS was short by about 12,000 nurses, if you believed the official figures.

So in April 1999 the Government bumped up the pay rates for new starters and junior nurses by about 12%, but by just a nominal amount for long servers and specialist nurses. Oh, and they got a new campaign and a new tag-line too:

Nursing - make a difference!

Well, this made a difference all right. Unfortunately, it was in the wrong direction. It's true that a couple of thousand extra new entrants went into nurse training. But according to surveys by Unison and the RCN, another 5,000 experienced nurses left the profession, resulting in an even bigger shortage for the NHS of about 17,000 nurses by October 1999.

It's the specialities that have been hit hardest. Up and down the country, there are A&E departments, operating theatres, intensive care and midwifery units understaffed by 25%, 40%, 50% and 60%. And the nurses who've stuck to it are overworked, exhausted and demoralised - and they're still underpaid.

Aided and abetted by craven NHS Trust management, the Government continues to spin-doctor on about flexibility, family-friendly policies, creches, supernurses, nurse retention and recruitment strategies - everything except decent professional pay rates for hardworking professional nurses.

On the pay rate front, the NHS continues to mercilessly exploit the goodwill and conscience of a dedicated and caring workforce. And the Government is still trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear on nurses' pay. But as our pay rate piggie-wiggies know, it just can't be done any more.

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