Nurses have missed out of the UK Government’s latest announcement that it will be giving two million public sector workers a pay rise. Instead, nurses have the option to be offered supermarket discounts and cheap gym membership in an effort to persuade workers to stay in the NHS. But is this enough?
Simon Stevens, the head of the UK’s health service, will call for the wider rollout of such schemes which have given staff savings of up to £1,000 a year on their shopping. The plans will see nurses offered access to promotions and discounts in a bid to encourage staff loyalty.
It has been revealed that many nurses are quitting the NHS to work in Lidl because pay, hours and benefits better. With a shortage of 40,000 nurses across the UK, the NHS continues to face a drain on staffing as nurses quit, yet they have not been announced as deserving of a pay rise in 2019.
Last year NHS leaders warned that the health service is now so understaffed that patient safety is being put at risk. Chris Hopson, NHS Providers’ chief executive said in an article in the London Economic: “Years of pay restraint and stressful working conditions are taking their toll”.
Health officials say a similar NHS discount scheme in Birmingham – which gave staff access to discounts from 700 retailers, including Sainsbury, Tesco, Boots, Morrisons and B&Q – has helped the trust to keep its staff, at a time when others are losing workers. Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust has cut turnover of nursing staff by two per cent since starting the scheme. The trust says its discount website, which has more than 2,300 users, helps staff save up to £1,000 a year.
It has been announced that two million public sector workers including police officers and teachers but excluding nurses are to receive above-inflation pay increases, the biggest for six years. Police officers will receive a 2.5% rise while the salaries of teachers and other school staff will increase by 2.75%. Soldiers will get a 2.9% increase and dentists and consultants will get 2.5%, according to the Times.
Most public sector workers’ pay increase will be higher than the 2% rate of inflation. Many have been forced to accept below-inflation pay increases during the government’s austerity drive of the past decade, while rents have risen by more than the cost of living.
A recent report warned that London and the southern regions of England are facing a shortage of teachers, nurses and police officers as rising rents make housing in large parts of the UK unaffordable for key public sector workers.
The report, published by PricewaterhouseCoopers, warned that the high cost of rental housing in London and in the South East could contribute to a shortage of nurses in the area. It found that rental costs in London accounted for 39% of nurses’ and midwives’ income and noted that a ratio of 30% was the conventional benchmark that is considered affordable.
So are discounts enough to keep nurses in the NHS? Ultimately shopping budgets and gym memberships are only a couple of pieces to the puzzle. If nurses can’t pay their rents and their bills, we are going to see more and more of them move to other jobs with better benefits and pay.
However, it is a start.