For many people, nursing is a career they aspire towards. Those who choose to go into the profession can expect years of training, shift work, and a highly demanding job. But it is also a job that allows people to care for others and to do good.
If you're looking to go into nursing, you may be wondering how much nurses earn. Nurses' pay is a topic of contention, with many nurses saying that they don't earn enough. Hearing that, you might have assumptions about how much a nurse will be paid while working for the NHS. You may also wonder what the difference is in how much pay NHS, agency and private nurses receive, or what the benefits of being an NHS nurse are.
Nurses at the beginning of their careers will start on an annual salary of £24,907 before pension contributions and taxes. This salary can go up after the first year and continue to rise beyond that, provided they meet certain stipulations.
The way nurses pay gets worked out can be complicated but there is still an average that the Royal College of Nursing has estimated.
The NHS have a banding system when it comes to their salaries. The majority of nurses sit within Band 5. The average salary for a nurse in this band is between £33,000 and £35,000. The average usually works out around £33,384. The average hours an adult nurse will work a week is 37.5. This means they are getting paid higher amounts by the hour than many other places of work. It could be down to the unsocial hours and the hard work, but it also allows them to rest between shifts.
However, the average salary is still an amount that many nurses are unhappy over. Nurses in England are set to receive a 3% pay rise in 2022 backdated to April 2021. Originally, the rise was to be just 1%. This rise was suggested by an independent review body, which works out the pay rises across the NHS each year. The government didn't think that the NHS could afford more than 1%, but calculations done in June revealed more money than expected. NHS staff were the only public sector employees who do not face a pay freeze for the 2021/22 period, it was deemed inappropriate due to their work during the pandemic.
What pay rise are UK nurses outside of England getting?
Nurses working in Scotland and Wales will also get a pay rise.
Those in Scotland will get a 4% pay rise for the 2021/2022 period. The pay rise will be backdated to December 2020, so nurses will get extra for hours they have worked during the lockdown months. This follows a one-off payment of £500 for all health and social workers during Covid.
In Wales, as in England, nurses will receive a 3% pay rise.
Pay rises for NHS nurses are limited. How much a nurse can earn is limited by the caps on the different bands.
How can a nurse increase their pay?
As previously stated, nurses can increase their wages each year in small increments. However, there is a limit to how much of a pay raise they can get.
Every nurse will receive a pay rise each year until they reach the payment limit of their band. However, in order to receive their pay rise, there are mandatory training courses to be completed, and nurses have to perform well across the year. If it is decided that they haven't put in the effort, then they won't get the pay rise that year. It may be possible for them to get a pay rise the next year, but they would have to prove that they're working to the expected standard.
The NHS bands for nurses run from Band 5 up to Band 9. The majority of nurses will sit within Band 5. However, by getting further qualifications, they can move up through the bands and into different areas of nursing.
If a nurse wishes to move up through the bands, the NHS trust may fund further training. That could be anything from courses that can work around their work, all the way to a master's degree. Since there is mandatory training anyway, they may offer further training if someone thinks they will do well in another role. But if nurses choose to move into a role within another band on their own. There may not be any opportunities at the time, and they may have to fund their own studies.
This is how it works for NHS nurses. For agency and private nurses, it is different.
How much do agency nurses earn?
Agency nurses are often thought to earn more than NHS nurses. To some extent, this is true, but they do not earn more in a year than them.
When agency nurses get called in, they are offered more for the shifts that they work. The NHS do this as they need to provide cover nurses when full-time nurses are off. Agency nurses also work irregular shifts, so it is important that they are able to earn enough.
For an agency nurse to reach the salary of a general nurse, they will have to have contacts to get them consistent work. They also don't get the benefits of an NHS nurse like a pension and the offers of training. Neither do those private nurses.
How much do private nurses earn?
Private nurses usually earn around the same salary as those who work for the NHS. They may even earn a little bit more than the average nurse on the NHS.
How much you can earn as a private nurse will be down to the individual company you are working for. NHS pay is worked out in the same way across the country, with some places like London differing as the living costs are higher. Individual companies can choose to pay their nurses however much they want. When looking into a job as a nurse, whether with a private hospital or care centre, you need to find out beforehand if you think the pay they offer will work for you.
As well as the pay, there may also be other benefits to working in a private hospital or care setting. They tend to be less crowded, so there's less stress too. But by working for a private hospital, you lose out on the benefits that the NHS nurses get.
What benefits do NHS nurses get?
The benefits that NHS nurses can get include maternity leave and a pension. You will also have your taxes paid monthly, as with any fully employed role. A benefit that agency nurses miss out on. Within this paycheck, they get extra for the unsocial hours they work. Some private hospitals may offer this as well, but it depends on the individual organisation.
Although some private nurses get their benefits such as health insurance, the benefits offered to work for the NHS are guaranteed.
Does working for the NHS, an agency, or private care pay better?
Out of the three, the NHS probably pays best. Even if you could earn more in a private job when first starting. You cannot guarantee that you would get a pay raise the following year. Within the NHS, it is possible for people to earn more money as they work harder.
On top of that, you know for sure that you would get sick pay, maternity pay and have the opportunity for further training. If you want all this within a private job, you have to make sure to do the research. Agency jobs cannot earn as much as full-time, as your work revolves around other people's time off. Agency nursing is just as important as working full-time, but the work must be consistent for them to earn enough money.
With the current climate demanding so much of healthcare workers, it is widely thought that nurses should earn more. NHS workers have received pay raises each year for the past three years, and this is a trend that seems likely to continue. The pay rises may be slightly higher in some parts of the UK than in others, but across the nation, people are realising the value of nurses and want to see them compensated for their work.
The average salary of a nurse may not be as high as some would like. But even the starting salary is a lot higher than the minimum wage, and they have many opportunities to continue training and earn more throughout their careers.