Welsh Nurses Given Early Pay Rise

Nurses in Wales are to receive their full annual pay increase, ahead of their colleagues in England. The unstaged pay increase of 2.5%, backdated to 1 April, was announced by health minister Edwina Hart, who said they “deserved their pay in full”.

The Welsh Assembly Government had originally gone with a UK Government decision to delay part of the rise until November.

Unions had criticised this and were considering strike action.

The Royal College of Nursing Wales (RCN) welcomed the decision, which will be implemented across several departments.

Key NHS workers in Wales including ancillary, administrative and clerical staff, support services including catering, estates and maintenance, hotel services and security will also receive the full pay rise, said Mrs Hart.

The additional costs would be managed as an “in-year pressure” within the health and social services budget, she said.

“This will significantly help to improve staff morale within the NHS and clearly demonstrates how much I value their hard work and dedication,” said Ms Hart.

Pay and conditions for NHS staff are set by the UK government.

Gordon Brown, when he was Chancellor, was criticised over the decision to stagger a 2.5% pay rise for NHS staff across England, Wales and Northern Ireland in two stages.

They had been offered a 1.5% rise from April followed by another 1% in November.

But the full 2.5% rise had been recommended for NHS staff by an independent pay review body.

In March, the Scottish executive said it was willing to make up the difference – paying the full 2.5% from April on.

But at the time, the Welsh Assembly Government said it was bound to the UK agreement, and had no plans to depart from it.

Ms Hart defended the U-turn on that decision, saying that she had confidence in the independent pay review body’s findings.

But she said she would remain a supporter of the “national collective decision-making process”.

“I have made clear since I became health minister that nurses deserve and should have their pay in full,” she said.

“I have had many representations on nurses pay including discussions with healthcare unions – the RCN and Unison – and I have decided that the only correct course of action is for Wales to honour the pay agreement.”

RCN Wales, which has 22,700 members in Wales, said the decision had given them renewed confidence that the assembly government valued nurses.

Tina Donnelly, director RCN Wales said: “Pay levels are fundamental to the ability of our health service to recruit and retain the skilled nurses needed to deliver quality patient care.”

But RCN general secretary Peter Carter said it was “unfair and undeserved” the government in England and Northern Ireland still planned to impose the award there in stages.

The union is considering a UK-wide strike on the issue. Such action could see nurses working to rule or refusing to fill out some paperwork.

RCN Wales said it would be holding a board meeting on Friday at which it would decide whether or not to send out ballot papers on strike action to members.