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3 August 2021

Exclusive polling: Majority say NHS nurses and doctors are paid too little

New polling also reveals voters feel nurses should receive more than a 3 per cent pay rise.

By Anoosh Chakelian

Most Britons think nurses and doctors are paid too little – and nearly half think the government’s promised 3 per cent pay rise for NHS staff is not enough.

When informed that the starting salary for nurses at the NHS is around £25,000, rising to around £30,000 for those at the top of “band five” (the salary band for newly qualified nurses), and that the average salary across the NHS is around £33,000 per annum, 55 per cent of people polled said they think NHS nurses are paid too little.

Some 32 per cent think they are paid the right amount, 6 per cent said they earn too much, and 7 per cent don’t know, according to exclusive polling by Redfield & Wilton Strategies carried out for the New Statesman*.

When informed that the starting annual salary for junior doctors at the NHS is £23,000, rising to £28,000 in their second year, and that the average annual salary for junior doctors at the NHS is £37,000, 53 per cent said they think NHS doctors are paid too little, 32 per cent the right amount, 9 per cent too much, and 7 per cent don’t know.

Some 47 per cent think the 3 per cent pay rise recently announced by the government for NHS workers is too little, while 40 per cent think it is about right, 7 per cent think it is too much, and 6 per cent don’t know.

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[see also: What the NHS needs is an overhaul, not the George Cross]

This polling suggests support for health workers during the pandemic remains high, and the findings present a reputational challenge for the government, which has been tangled up in a row over NHS pay for months.

In June, the government offered a 3 per cent pay rise to nurses and other NHS workers in England, after initial proposals in March for a 1 per cent rise were heavily criticised by the health sector.

Some unions argue that a 3 per cent uplift does not make up for pay losses over the past decade and amounts to a real-terms cut when factoring in inflation. The Royal College of Nursing, for example, has been campaigning for a 12.5 per cent pay increase, and has launched a “summer of action” against what it describes as the “below-inflation NHS pay award”.

All NHS staff in Wales have been offered a 3 per cent rise by the Welsh government, and most NHS workers have already been offered a 4 per cent pay rise in Scotland.

*Polling conducted on 29 July 2021, with a sample size of 1,500 eligible voters in Great Britain.

[see also: NHS nurses’ pay is still 5 per cent lower than in 2010]