NHS pay award will increase pay for nurses by 72p per hour

12 October 2022
What was claimed

NHS nurses have had 72p a week pay rise.

Our verdict

The pay increase of £1,400 offered to nurses for 2022/23 amounts to approximately 72p per hour.

“How quickly our nurses have gone from the country’s heroes to this government’s villains, offered a derisory 72p a week pay rise.”

During Prime Minister’s Questions on 12 October, Labour MP Ian Lavery claimed that nurses have “had a derisory 72p a week pay rise”. He also tweeted this figure earlier in the day, and shared a video clip of him saying it after PMQs.

The comment led Prime Minister Liz Truss to respond: “The figures he’s quoting are simply wrong.”

This claim was also made by Royal College of Nursing (RCN) general secretary Pat Cullen last week. While discussing the RCN’s decision to launch a strike ballot over NHS pay, she told Radio 4’s Today programme on 6 October that the government’s pay offer for nurses “makes a difference of 72p a week to a nurse’s wage”. Questioned on this figure, she repeated: “72p extra in their wage every week.”

A spokesperson for Mr Lavery told Full Fact his use of the figure was based on reporting of Ms Cullen’s comments in the media.

However, the RCN has said that Ms Cullen misspoke. Calculations from UNISON actually suggest the pay offer increases wages by 72p per hour, not 72p per week.

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How NHS pay is set

In setting pay for public sector staff, the UK governments can ask independent pay review bodies to provide recommendations. There are three bodies that make recommendations on pay for NHS workers: 

  • the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration covers doctors and dentists
  • the Senior Salaries Review Body covers senior managers. 

As responsibility for healthcare is devolved, each of the four UK governments makes the decision on whether to ask the pay bodies to make recommendations, and then whether to accept those recommendations when it ultimately decides the level of pay.

This year, the Scottish Government decided not to participate in the pay review body process for NHS staff covered by the NHS Pay Review Body, but negotiate with unions directly.  

What’s been offered

On 19 July 2022 the UK Government, with responsibility for pay in England, announced it had accepted recommendations in full from the independent NHS pay review bodies. This came into effect in September.

This includes a pay increase for over a million staff of at least £1,400 a year, backdated to April 2022 for all pay points. 

Additionally, staff in some pay bands were offered an additional increase beyond the £1,400 to a total pay increase of 4%.

Calculations published by UNISON show that for the majority of NHS staff, this pay award represents an increase of roughly 72p per hour, before deductions, based on updated hourly pay rates.

For example, a newly qualified nurse in the band 5 pay grade can expect to earn £13.84 per hour under the new pay award, compared to £13.12 in 2021/22 — an increase of 72p per hour.

72p per hour or per week

A spokesperson for the RCN told Full Fact that Ms Cullen misspoke when she referred to a 72p per week pay increase on Radio 4.

It should be noted that the 72p per hour increase is a cash-terms increase.

With inflation (measured by the Consumer Price Index) at 9.9% in August— the latest month for which figures are available— a £1,400 pay increase (which represents roughly a 5% pay increase for a newly qualified nurse) still amounts to a real-terms pay decrease for many workers, with the cost of living increasing faster than pay.

The RCN is recommending its members vote in favour of strike action in protest against the pay award, and is calling for a pay increase that is 5% above inflation as measured by the Retail Price Index, which stood at 12.3% in August.

Image courtesy of Richard Townshend

We deserve better than bad information.

After we published this fact check, we contacted Ian Lavery MP to request a correction regarding this claim.

He did not respond. 

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