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Adult nurse: Salary and conditions

  • Salaries for Band 5 under the NHS Agenda for Change (AfC) Pay Rates  (the entry point for graduate nurses) start at £21,388, rising to £27,901. Salaries in London attract a high-cost area supplement.
  • Salaries at senior level (Bands 7-9 in the NHS) range from £30,764 - £98,453.
  • Comparable rates of pay exist in the private sector. Contact individual providers for details.
  • Payments for unsocial hours are made to NHS staff. For example, time plus 60% is paid for working on Sundays and public holidays. Details of pay for unsocial hours in the private sector may vary. Contact individual providers for details.
  • The NHS offers an average salary scheme for new members of staff. Nurses employed outside the NHS may not have the same terms in relation to pension provision, sickness or maternity leave benefits, but may be offered other incentives such as private health insurance or, occasionally, a company car for senior roles.
  • Working hours in hospitals typically include regular unsocial hours. There is increasing scope for 9am - 5pm working, not only in the community and in specialist units and clinics, but also in industry and commerce.
  • Flexible working has become available as a means of retaining staff, but tends to vary according to whether there are nurse shortages. Currently, workforce levels are stable.
  • The environment and working conditions vary between hospitals and wards. You might be looking after many different patients on a ward, or one or two patients in intensive care or on a high dependency unit. Alternatively, you could work on your own in patients' homes. Nurses often work in multidisciplinary teams.
  • Career breaks and retraining opportunities are often available.
  • Freelance work is possible through agencies or as a private nurse or, for senior nurses, as a consultant.
  • Nursing is still a female-dominated profession, but around 10% of nurses are men.
  • Opportunities exist in most major towns and cities. In rural areas, opportunities are more limited.
  • In the NHS, a clothing allowance/uniform is provided. This may not always be the case in the private sector.
  • Nursing can be physically and emotionally demanding.
  • Ward-based adult nurses may occasionally need to travel within a working day, for example between two hospitals or units in a trust. Progression into specialties such as district nursing or health visiting, or other community roles, often involves regular travel to visit people in their own homes.
  • There are opportunities to travel or work overseas.

Salary figures are intended as a guide only.

Written by Rosie Plimmer, AGCAS
June 2013

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