I think the pay rates at the top end of the NHS are poor. Whether or not you agree with that, I do not think anyone will dispute that the pay rates at the bottom end are disgraceful.
How do you retain such a huge work force when you are paying them not much above the basic minimum wage, when many of them are living in poverty?
The current minimum wage is £5.35 per hour; for a standard 40 hour week, that translates to a salary of £11,128 per annum.
If we look at the Nurse Pay Scale here (and accompanying Pay Scale translator), we can see that a nurse starts on a salary somewhere between £12,177 and £15,107 (one must assume that this scale does not include London-weighting).
The good Doctor is correct that this is by no means a massive starting salary; however I started my first job on £12,500 and managed perfectly well in Edinburgh, a city which is, bar accommodation, not much cheaper to live in than London. In fact, my (admittedly limited) research has determined that, on average, a pint of ale in London is rather cheaper than one in Edinburgh.
However, as I have pointed out endlessly, what nurses do get, that I do not, is a very lovely final salary pension, underwritten by we generous taxpayers. They also get a security of tenure that we private sector workers do not get (although, as I am sure Crippen will point out, due to government incompetence this job security is less assured than once it was).
In other words, what nurses (and other public sector workers) get is jam tomorrow as opposed to jam today. I really don't see the problem with this.
It is far from ideal: I think that we should pay nurses more; after all, if we have a shortage of nurses—as interested parties continually claim—then surely the market would determine that we should pay more in order to encourage more people into the profession.
Fine, let's pay nurses more from the off, but here's the kicker: they forego the final salary pension. You can have your jam today but, since there are limited resources, there will be no jam tomorrow: that's the deal, OK?
This would free up a lot of money in the NHS; something like 80% of the increased NHS funding has been consumed by pay. A good deal of this has been consumed by the pensions: if you raise a nurse's pay by £1,000 a year, a great deal more than one grand then has to go into the final salary pension kitty.
So, all you nurses out there, what do you want: jam today or jam tomorrow?