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Nurses pay and nursing salary scale in the UK

A nursing staff member conversing with a patient during a visit

Nurses pay and nursing salary scale in the UK 2023 - A Guide

On February 12, NHS bosses agreed with calls for ministers to meet with unions to reach a pay deal and avoid more strikes. At the same time, the UK's largest nursing union warned of an "exodus" of young nurses leaving the field.
According to Royal College of Nursing (RCN) figures, nearly 43,000 nurses in their early stages of their careers have quit in the UK over the last five years, which is equal to the total number of 47,000 nursing positions now vacant in NHS England.

Nurses pay in the UK

Nursing in the UK is widely known as a rewarding career, but do the financial rewards match the demands of the job? As per the records, between 2010 and 2015, average NHS nursing salaries increased by just over 2%, and between 2015 and 2017, a fixed 1% pay rise was implemented—the well-known "pay cap."
From 2018 to the end of March 2021, the "New Pay Deal" was implemented, where salaries across the board increased over a 3-year period. All NHS staff under the year's remit will receive a pay increase in 2022. Over one million staff under the "Agenda for Change," including nurses, paramedics, and midwives, were said to receive the benefit of a pay rise of at least £1,400 backdated to April.
However, this doesn't explain the exact situation of nurses' pay in the UK from a broader perspective, as it neither covers private sector nursing pay nor MHS pensions and other salary-supplementing benefits.
Nursing in the UK offers great career flexibility, and that applies to pay too. Bank and agency nurses often have the freedom to increase their earnings as they see fit. For all those nurses and individuals aspiring to move into this career, understanding these factors is vital when considering their future.

What is the average wage for a UK nurse?

A common question asked is: What is the average pay for nurses in the UK?
UK nurses can work in the NHS or the private sector, and pay varies greatly between the two. However, pay depends on qualification and experience.
According to various job boards and recruitment sites that track the salaries of jobs they post, the average wage of a UK nurse is between £33,000 and £35,000 per year.
While some people do become nurses in their 40s and beyond, we also know that the vast majority of newly qualified nurses are under the age of 30. This implies that the average nurse has at least five years of experience, which corresponds to a salary range of £33,000 to £35,000.
In 2018, the RCN calculated the average weekly pay for an NHS nurse to be £642, and our annual figure to be £33,384. This number is based on the averages from job boards and our own analysis of NHS profiles from the NMC's annual register.
It may or may not reflect pay in the private sector, but since most nurses work for the NHS, this number seems to be the most accurate one we have.

Nursing salaries in the private and public sectors in the UK

NHS pay for their nurses is clearly structured, while private sector pay can vary widely. To begin, many private-sector nurses who work in private healthcare facilities negotiate their pay. However, it is not necessary that private nurses earn more, as some nurses might be paid more while others might not be.
Working with the NHS gives a nurse more clarity, stability, and reliability. The salary band and benefits are clear and consistent, providing a true picture of where you stand in your job.
However, when it comes to private-sector nurses, if you feel you are paid less, you can always negotiate for a hike. Just remember that nothing is guaranteed, so there are no incremental or government increases.

What is your salary with each NHS band?

NHS pay is based on a banding system that was implemented in 2004. The banding system assigns specific roles and levels of seniority to specific bands, and thus to specific salaries.
Newly qualified nurses enter the workforce at Band 5 and can earn up to £32,934 with enough years of experience (over 4 years). Within Band 6, the starting salary is £33,706 and the maximum possible salary is £40,588. Salaries in Band 7 begin well above £40,000 per year, and salary ranges become more complicated for those in Bands 8 and above.
You must be in your current role for a certain number of years in order to earn the highest pay in each band.

How can you increase your pay?

As an NHS nurse, your pay will increase as you gain years of experience within your particular pay band. However, this incremental increase will stop once you reach the top of your band, and the only increase that could apply is an inflationary one.
Moving up a pay scale is another way to make more money. To do this, you have to apply for a new job within that pay band, which usually means getting more qualifications.
This might be possible with courses that fit around your existing job. However, in some cases, you may be required to complete additional specialist training or a Master's Degree.

Benefits of being an NHS nurse

There are several advantages, including the following
1. Enhanced pay for unsociable hours
2. Pension scheme
3. 27 days’ holiday per year, plus bank holidays
4. Free access to occupational health and counselling support
5. Six months full pay and six months half pay for sick leave
6. Generous maternity and paternity leave
7. Access to training courses and career development
Many UK nurses consider these benefits when choosing between the private and public sectors.

Pros and cons of the UK's agency nurses in terms of pay

Though agency nurses' pay rates are higher, they don't get any sick or annual leave. Furthermore, there is no guarantee of employment, and you may be forced to work in locations or disciplines that you do not want to. Furthermore, "agency caps" are being imposed on trusts across the country, threatening the number of agency nurses that each trust can actually use.
So for agency nurses in the UK, pay means more than just money. However, you have the flexibility to work with more than one nursing agency. The only requirement is that they need to be open to a wide variety of opportunities, as you might have to work in varied facilities. If you are a nurse in the UK trying to build experience and try out other disciplines, this is the best option, which will also help boost your pay.
It all depends on the type of nursing career you want to pursue. Both have their own pros and cons; choosing the right option is up to you.
Nurses Group is a Yeovil-based private nursing staffing agency that has been in business for nearly a decade. We pay our nurses and other healthcare workers the best hourly rate on the market and pay them on time every week.

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