Health secretary urged to address gender pay gap in nursing

The call comes as health and social care secretary Matt Hancock prepared to make a speech to doctors promising more action to tackle the gender pay gap that sees female staff across the NHS paid on average 23% less than men.

“He must help us to shred any idea that nursing is ‘low-paid women’s work’”

Patricia Marquis

In his speech to the Royal College of Physicians today, the health secretary described gender equality as “mission critical” to the success of the NHS Long Term Plan in England.

“The gender gap is a good barometer of the health of the NHS and it’s clear we must do better,” he said.

Ensuring gender equality is the only way to address staffing shortages, deliver the ambitions of the NHS Long Term Plan and “build an NHS workforce fit for the future”, he argued.

In his speech at the RCP conference in Manchester he highlighted gender inequality in the medical profession and said it was “deeply troubling” that male GPs are on average paid a third more than female GPs and that more than half of junior doctors are women but at consultant level it is just a third.

In response, the Royal College of Nursing said there must also be a focus on addressing inequality in nursing.

“While the health secretary challenges the lack of women in medicine, he must help us to shred any idea that nursing is ‘low-paid women’s work’ too,” said RCN England director Patricia Marquis.

“Nursing has its own gender pay gap – men, who make up only 10% of nurses, often take many of the top jobs in nursing,” she noted.

“More than anything we need to create a more caring, a more compassionate culture”

Matt Hancock

She said the focus on equality was “extremely welcome” but added “things won’t change until everyone, regardless of race or religion, feels fully included in the health service”.

“Pay for nursing staff should reward their skill and expertise,” she said. “The profession must be shown as attractive to young women and men, and the flexibility in shift patterns that keep nurses in their job must be made a top priority.”

In his speech today, Mr Hancock also addressed the issue of flexible working and call for “smart digital rotas” to become the norm to help staff across the NHS more freedom to manage their time around work, family and other commitments and pick shifts to suit them.

In addition, he urged the NHS to offer more roles that are less than full-time, term-time only and job shares and – where feasible – encourage increased working from home to bring the health service in line with other sectors.

As well as introducing more flexible options, Mr Hancock called for changes to working cultures in order to create a more positive working environment and tackle issues like bullying and violence, which damage staff retention and morale.

While the NHS is essentially a “caring organisation”, he told the conference that “sometimes it doesn’t care enough about its workers”.

“We need more staff, more resources, better technology and, on my watch, we will have all of those,” he said.

“But more than anything we need to create a more caring, a more compassionate culture,” he added.

patricia marquis

patricia marquis

Source: Gareth Harmer

Patricia Marquis

His comments come ahead of the publication of an NHS People Plan, which was ordered by the health secretary in January to support the NHS Long Term Plan.

The interim report, being put together by Baroness Dido Harding with input from professional groups, is expected to set out initial measures the NHS will take to improve retention and become a better employer.

This will foreshadow the much-anticipated Workforce Implementation Plan due to published after the government’s spending review in the autumn.

According to the Department for Health and Social Care, measures due to be outlined in the NHS People Plan include action to boost flexible working and staff wellbeing and address issues including discrimination, violence, bullying and harassment.