‘Kick in the teeth’: Sheffield nurses slam ‘pay cut’ after hardest year of their lives battling Covid

A union representative and nurse in Sheffield has called the Government’s budget decision not to give nurses a pay rise after a year on the front lines of the Covid pandemic a ‘kick in the teeth’.

By Lloyd Bent
Friday, 5th March 2021, 1:13 pm
Updated Friday, 5th March 2021, 2:01 pm

This week Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the budget, and revealed that nurses would receive a pay rise of just one per cent – an effective pay cut as inflation is expected to be 1.9 per cent.

The ‘insulting’ change to NHS staff wages amounts to an extra £3.50 a week, a senior Sheffield nurse and union representative has said, and has called on the Government to rethink the strategy and threatened industrial action if it does not perform a ‘U-turn’.

Joan Pons Laplana, a senior nurse and Unison representative, said: “This is an insult to the hard work that nursing staff have done.

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A nurse adjusts her face mask before taking swabs at a Covid-19 Drive-Through testing station for NHS staff. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

“We are very angry about this. The reality is that this is a pay cut as our wages are increasing at a lower rate than the predicted inflation.

"We have had a year filled with a lot of stress and many have suffered mental health issues. We have worked very long hours and the success of the vaccination effort is down to NHS staff, and this is how they thank us: with another pay cut.

"This is worse than clapping. Clapping does not pay our bills, and neither does an effective pay cut. £3.50 a week is an insult.

Joan Pons Laplana is a digital manager at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals but returned to frontline duties to help in the effort against COVID-19.

"Governments around the world have recognised the work of their nurses during the pandemic and and have thanked them by giving them a wage rise or a bonus.

"In England the Government think it is enough to thank their nurses by clapping.

"Nursing is still one of the poorest paid professions after university. On average we are 20 per cent worse off than we were in 2010.

"More nurses than ever are relying on benevolent funds like food banks. The costs of living are rising and our wages are not keeping up with that.

"We recognise there is a financial crisis, but the Government has spent billions on the Test and Trace system that is not fit for purpose. Why is this money not helping NHS staff?

"The unions are hoping that the Government are just testing the water with this policy and will do a U-turn. Otherwise the unions have agreed there will be industrial action.”

The announcement about nurses’ wages came as the Government also revealed that the total funding for the Department of Health and Social Care is to fall from £199.2bn in 2020/21 to £169.1bn next year.

The drop in funds has been allocated from Covid-19 spending.

Mr Laplana said: “Covid has not gone away. We don’t know what the long term impact will be. These cuts are yet another kick in the teeth.

"The demand on the NHS is going up every year and they keep making cuts. Sometimes I feel like they think we are magicians.

"We are not going to be able to keep up with demand.

"The fantastic work of the NHS has saved Boris Johnson and his Government’s skin. He should be thanking us for saving him from his own catastrophic management of the pandemic.”