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New analysis shows impact of government's NHS pay squeeze
  • Hundreds of thousands of key workers have lost more than a year’s pay as result of their wages not keeping pace with inflation 

  • Frontline staff warn of unstainable pressures 

  • TUC calls on Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt to “stop being a roadblock” to resolving public sector pay disputes 

Hundreds of thousands of NHS workers have lost at least “a year’s worth of salary” as a result of their pay not keeping pace with inflation since 2010, new TUC analysis has found today. 

The analysis shows the cumulative impact of the Conservatives’ decision to hold down public sector pay over the last 13 years. 

Midwives, nurses and physiotherapists have all lost over a year’s pay after more than a decade of real-terms pay cuts and freezes. 

Huge loss in real earnings 

Today’s analysis details the huge loss in earnings many frontline staff have experienced: 

  • Maternity and care assistants have suffered a cumulative real-terms pay loss of £30,000 since 2010 – the equivalent of 14 months’ worth of salary. 

  • Nurses and physiotherapists have suffered a cumulative real-terms pay loss of £37,000 since 2010 – the equivalent of 13 months’ worth of salary. 

  • Midwives have suffered a cumulative pay real terms pay loss of £48,000 since 2010 – the equivalent of 14 months’ worth of salary. 

Staffing pressures 

The union body warned that the government’s decision to hold down public sector pay is fuelling the recruitment and retention crisis across the NHS and other key services. 

The TUC estimates that public sector workers are still earning £200 a month less – in real terms – than in 2010. 

And separate polling published by the TUC in October showed that 1 in 3 public sector workers (including those working in the NHS) are actively considering or taking steps to quit their professions. 

NHS physiotherapist Davina Lambie, a member of The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP), warned: 

“Every day I have colleagues crying on my shoulder. The people who do this job are lucky if they have a break to go to the toilet and on a daily basis are unable to give the care that they want to. 

“We cannot do this job unless there is some kind of reward that meets the demands of that we are enduring every day, and it’s really difficult to look after more and more patients every day in worse conditions. It’s just not sustainable.” 

Government roadblock 

The TUC today repeated its calls for Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt to open up genuine negotiations on pay for this year (2022/23). 

The TUC says both men have acted as a “roadblock” to unions and the government finding a resolution to the current pay disputes. 

The union body warned that industrial unrest would continue until the Treasury freed ministers to make decent offers. 

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said:  

“The Conservatives’ decision to hold down public sector pay has made key workers tens of thousands of pounds poorer.  And it has fuelled the recruitment and retention crisis blighting our public services. 

“Nurses, physiotherapists, midwives and many other frontline staff have lost more than a year’s worth of salary since the Tories took office. 

“Things can’t carry on like this. After a decade of pay suppression, public servants simply cannot afford another real-terms wage hit. Their living standards have been decimated. 

“Instead of ignoring the problem they created, the government must kickstart genuine pay negotiations with unions. 

“Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt hold the keys to unlocking the current disputes. But so far they have acted as a roadblock to finding fair settlements.” 

Editors note

Real-terms pay loss by NHS Band 

Cumulative pay loss 2010-2022 

Salary 2022 

Number of months’ worth of salary lost since 2010  

Number of years’ worth of salary lost since 2010 

Band 2 

-£                   13,828 

 £        21,318  


Band 3 

-£                   18,357 

 £        23,177  



Band 4 

-£                   30,038 

 £        26,282  



Band 5 

-£                   36,973 

 £        32,934  



Band 6 

-£                   47,747 

 £        40,588  



Band 7 

-£                   56,084 

 £        47,672  



Guide to NHS bands: 

NHS band 2: Porter higher level, Receptionist (A&E), Healthcare science assistant, Call handler (entry level), Patient Transport Services Driver 

NHS band 3: Medical Secretary, Call handler 

NHS band 4: Associate Practitioner/Nursery Nurse, Maternity Care Assistant, Speech and Language Therapy Assistant/Associate Practitioner, Medical Secretary Higher Level 

NHS Band 5: Nurse (community), Nurse (GP practice), Nurse (mental health), Dietitian, Podiatrist, Physiotherapist  

NHS band 6: Physiotherapist Specialist, Radiographer Specialist (Diagnostic Therapeutic),  Midwife (community). Midwife (hospital), Dietitian Specialist, Nurse specialist 

NHS band 7: Midwife Higher Level, Occupational therapist advanced, Radiographer advanced 

-For losses in pay for NHS workers, the top of the NHS pay scales have been used, as well as CPI with a base year of 2022.  

-Paramedics are excluded from this analysis due to their job being regraded in 2016.  Their real pay fell by £2,400 over the last year. 


TUC press office   
020 7467 1248  

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