Nurses ‘work one day a week for FREE’, analysis claims

Nurses work the equivalent of one day a week for free, according to a new analysis that comes amid the looming threat of devastating strikes.

Researchers at London Economics, commissioned by the Royal College of Nursing, looked at pay in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland since 2010.

They claimed in real terms, based on a five-day week, the salary of an experienced nurse has fallen by 20 per cent.

A pay rise would help save NHS money because of how expensive it is to hire staff internationally — which is currently the main recruitment method adopted by the Government, according to the analysis.

Dr Gavan Conlon, who oversaw the research, said bringing in staff from overseas costs approximately £16,900 more annually than retaining a nurse, while using agency workers is around £21,300 more per year.

The Royal College of Nurses wants nurses to get a pay rise 5 per cent above inflation, far above the around 4 per cent being offered by No10

Around 32,000 nurses are quitting the NHS per year at least in part because of the erosion of living standards, leaving tens of thousands of vacancies, he said.

‘The high costs of staff turnover suggest that staff retention is a cost-effective policy for the NHS,’ Dr Conlon said.

Experienced nurses across England, Wales and Northern Ireland would need to get a nominal pay rise of 45 per cent by 2024-25 to restore their real-terms salaries to 2010-2011 levels, according to the research.

The RCN is currently balloting on strike action, with around 300,000 members being asked if they are prepared to walk out.



The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is urging its 300,000-plus members to vote in favour of strike action when ballots open next month.


The chair of the British Medical Association — which represents 16,000 members — has warned strike action is ‘inevitable’.

It could see tens of thousands of doctors, consultants and GPs walk out, with multiple staff groups considering industrial action.

Junior doctors are first staff group to say they will ballot on industrial action, in a poll to be held in the New Year.


The Royal College of Midwives will put putting industrial action to a vote to its 50,000 members.

Two-thirds have already said they would be willing to strike in a preliminary poll. 


The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) said more than eight in 10 of its 60,000 members are prepared to strike.

Members will be balloted for the first time in the CSP’s 100-year history over pay.

Union bosses are demanding nurses get a salary uplift of at least five per cent above inflation, which currently sits at 12.3 per cent.

This would grant the average nurse, who earns roughly £35,600 each year according to the Government, an extra £6,150. But bowing to the union could cost taxpayers an extra £1billion.

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen has said the Government’s current offer — around £1,400 per nurse, in reality — ‘makes a difference to a nurse’s wage of 72p an hour’.

But former health secretary Therese Coffey said she is confident nurses will not get a higher pay offer.

Midwives are also being urged to vote in favour of strike action in a ballot that starts on November 11 for a period of four weeks.

Health workers in other trade unions are also being balloted for industrial action over pay.

Unison is asking 350,000 NHS staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, including porters, nurses, paramedics and cleaners, to vote in favour of walking out.

A ballot of its 50,000 members in Scotland, which was already under way, has been suspended after a new pay offer.

Mrs Cullen added: ‘This exploitation of nursing staff cannot be tolerated any longer.

‘In the pandemic, the politicians urged the public to clap for carers, but now they are wilfully ignoring nursing’s astonishing efforts and expertise.

‘Ministers have stubbornly resisted the requirement to address the workforce crisis, including paying nursing fairly, instead rejecting any opportunity to act. They have taken advantage of nursing’s goodwill and steadfast determination to act in the interests of their patients.

‘Our members have had enough. Expecting nursing staff to work one day a week for free is totally unacceptable.

‘Patients deserve better from their politicians. Despite nursing staff working increasingly long hours and doing all they can, safe and effective care is being undermined by the failure of governments to act.’