RCM considers next steps on NHS pay

By Colin Beesley on 27 September 2021 NHS Staff NHS Midwives MSWs - Maternity Support Workers Pay NHS Pay Review Body Pay and Agenda For Change Industrial Action Wales England

Better pay, staffing levels and working conditions are vital to retain staff and recruit more says the Royal College of Midwives (RCM). This comes as the RCM publishes the results of a survey of its midwife and maternity support worker (MSW) members views on pay today.

Nearly all (95%) of RCM members said they are unhappy with this year’s pay award in England and Wales. However only just over half (54%) also said they are prepared to take industrial action up to and including sustained strike action. Since the Trade Union Act 2016 - which the RCM campaigned against - became law, the ability of trade unions to take lawful industrial action has been seriously restricted

“Midwives and MSWs are simply exhausted and demoralised by years of pay freezes, pay stagnation, understaffing and under-investment. Add on the huge pressures of the pandemic and we can see the reasons for the relatively low turnout for this survey, which is reflected in responses other NHS unions are seeing,” said Jon Skewes, the RCM’s Executive Director of External Relations. “The PRB recommendation goes nowhere near making up for a decade or more of inadequate pay that see our members worse off now that they were ten years ago. That cannot be right. Increasing pay along with better staffing levels and working conditions are vital to retaining staff and to recruit midwives and MSWs into the NHS.”

Inadequate pay is one of the key reasons for staff wanting to leave the NHS, say RCM members in another survey to be published on member experiences next week. More than half (54%) say unhappiness with pay means they will leave or are considering leaving. This rises to 65 per cent in midwives with less than 5 years’ experience in the NHS.

The role of the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) in England and Wales is also being questioned. Nearly all the pay survey respondents (95%) said that the RCM should review its support of the PRB after it recommended a three per cent pay rise for NHS staff on the Agenda for Change pay bands. This money is now going into NHS staff pay packets. The RCM said it will need to consider the best way to get its members a fairer pay rise following the PRB’s disappointing award, and in Wales the joint trade unions are in pay talks with the Minister

The RCM Board will now be looking at the pay survey results and will be considering the next steps the RCM will be taking in its Deliver a Decent Deal pay campaign. At the same time the RCM says they are already planning and building their evidence for the NHS pay review in 2022. The Deliver a Decent Deal pay campaign is only just starting not coming to an end.

Jon Skewes added, “Prices are rising steeply, and inflation is set to increase, meaning hard working midwives and their colleagues will have even less in their pockets. There is palpable discontent rumbling in the NHS. I have real fears that people will show their discontent with their feet and simply walk out of the NHS door. This will be a calamity for maternity services which in England is already 2000 midwives short. This will hit the safety and quality of care which services are currently making herculean efforts to maintain, and responsibility for this will sit squarely with the Government.”