Nurses won't work for low pay

Submitted by AWL on 29 September, 2015 - 5:14 Author: A nurse

The editorial in Solidarity 377 blamed nursing shortages on a lack of nurse training and a lack of visas for overseas nurses. The picture is more complex.

In March 2014 the NHS employed 371,191 qualified nursing staff. At the same time, the Nursing and Midwifery Council had 680,858 active registrants. Even accounting for those nurses who are working in management, for the private sector, or overseas there must be still tens, if not hundreds of thousands of nurses have left secure NHS employment for agency work.

There is no shortage of nurses. There is a shortage of nurses willing to work for a pittance in understaffed wards. It is a sad fact that many nurses have dealt with low pay as isolated individuals. How much better for patients and staff if we had hit the government with solid and militant strikes in 2012 and 2015?

The abandonment of NICE's work on safe staffing last May coincided with NHS boss Simon Stevens annoucing "collective action on rip off agencies". The suggestion is that NHS bosses will refuse to pay agency rates even if it means dangerously understaffed wards.

An increase in overseas and newly-qualified nurses may help the NHS but only if they happy to take the poorly paid jobs that the current workforce has rejected.

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