£100,000 per annum Locum Nurse – How Did we get here?
Earlier this week I was speaking to a nurse who currently works locum shifts in an acute setting about a permanent private sector position in Belfast. During the conversation, it became clear that the position was not for her, but while we were talking she told me that during over the last calendar year she had earned £100,000 per year by working locum/bank shifts, predominately within hospitals.
At a time when MP’s are debating nursing wages and 2,000 nursing positions have been left unfilled within NI, how and why, are we directing so much money towards locum staff, and away from making permanent positions within the trust attractive and financially rewarding for nurses?
Recently we’ve learned that since 2010, nurses working within the Trust have experienced real-term pay cuts of 14%. No matter how you cut it, 14% is a significant drop in wages for an occupation that we all rely so heavily upon. At the same time the Trust is paying out up to £61.00 per hour, per nurse –plus a premium to an agency - to fill locum shifts, and I have spoken with many nurses who have confessed that they find it difficult to be on the same ward, performing the same job as another nurse, who may be earning twice what they are. (Rate taken from advertisement placed this week on NIjobfinder)
It’s unsurprising then that the private sector has become increasingly attractive to nurses who are looking for permanent positions. Increased rates of pay - up to £17.00 per hour for a permanent staff nurse –, and clear paths for progression, provide an obvious financial benefit, and the ability to choose your own shifts contributes to an improved lifestyle for permanent nurses – plus the recent introduction of workplace pensions has, to some extent, offset the traditional perks of an NHS pension.
Where do we go from here?
So, how do we fix the increasingly expanding gap between public and private sector nursing? Personally, I feel that the best way to rectify this disparity is for the Trust to significantly decrease its reliance on locum staff and focus their recruitment strategy on making permanent positions attractive to nurses again – both in a financial and lifestyle sense.
This would mean raising the hourly rates of permanent public sector nurses to mirror those available in the private sector, making permanent positions within the Trust worthwhile financially for nurses. The cost from this pay rise could be offset by drastically decreasing the reliance on locum shifts and engaging the agencies that provide bank staff to start filling permanent posts.
Neglecting to address this growing discontent of permanent nursing staff within the NHS will only exacerbate the current issues facing nurses in permanent employment, and will result in a further exodus towards the private sector, compounding our already under-staffed health-service.