Nurses give the thumbs down to Government Pay Freeze

No one expected the 2010 budget recently announced by Chancellor George Osborne to be anything other than tough, but the measure to freeze pay for public sector workers earning 21,000 per annum or more has hit a nerve.

The 21K limit has been cunningly set to ensure that all newly qualified nurses and midwives entering the profession at band 5 level are included in this pay freeze (see the agenda for change pay scales here). Of the 226 registered nurses and midwives that answered the survey, just over 60% would be affected by the pay freeze.

While there appears to have been a certain degree of reticence towards the current financial predicament of the country with nearly 29% admitting that it was a necessary measure, an overwhelming 65% still thought that the pay freeze was outrageous.

Other measures given in the budget include a flat 250 pay rise per year for two years for all public sector workers under the pay freeze cut off level, and a proposed increase in the state pension age to 66 years.




Nurses in financial difficulty
Despite repeated reassurance from the Government that frontline nursing staff will not be affected, nearly 70% of the nurses surveyed expect to experience financial difficulties over the next two years as a direct result of the pay freeze.

At the end of the two year freeze, there will be just 2099 between the pay of a top level Band 3 member of staff, such as a Senior Healthcare Assistant and a newly qualified Staff Nurse starting at the first point in Band 5.




Public Sector Pensions to be reviewed
It was also announced that a public sector pension review will be carried out and proposals implemented in time for the 2011 budget. We asked our nurses and midwives what they thought the outcome of the review would be, and just over half thought the retirement age would increase. An increase in contributions and the scrapping of all final salary schemes were also predicted.

Ex-Labour Minister John Hutton was appointed to head up the review, and now has the task of resolving the reported 9bn deficit in the public sector pension pot predicted over the next four years. He reportedly commented, I am determined that this work should be conducted openly and transparently and that our conclusions will be underpinned with a comprehensive analysis and evidence-base.




Job Opportunities in the Public Sector
The Office for Budget Responsibility recently admitted that up to 610,000 public sector positions will have to be lost by 2016, and its as yet unclear where these job cuts will happen, but according to Mr Osborne, all health sector budgets are ring-fenced and cannot be cut.

According to a post-election survey carried out by Nurses.co.uk, an overwhelming 50% of nurses we questioned felt that an urgent issue for the new coalition was to increase staffing levels in frontline services, which now looks unlikely to happen.




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