NURSES in Wales will be paid less than their Scottish colleagues as ministers ruled out breaking ranks with England.
The Welsh Assembly Government last night said it would follow England's lead and stagger a derisory and below inflation 2.5% pay rise for nurses throughout the year.
It said it has no plans to 'depart' from the cross-border agreement it has with the Department of Health.
Under the pay deal nurses will receive 1.5% next month and a further 1% in November - Scotland announced on Tuesday that nurses would receive the full 2.5% in April.
This is equivalent to a pay rise of just 1.9% - well below the rate of inflation - but the Royal College of Nursing believes the average nurse, on a salary of £24,841, could stand to lose £570 a year.
That money is the same as first-time buyer and specialist lung nurse Helen Caddick's monthly mortgage payment. She will have to continue working 15 to 22 hours overtime every month just to meet her monthly out-goings.
The 27-year-old, an RCN member who is based at the Newport Chest Clinic, at St Woolos Hospital, said, 'The pay offer has really reduced our morale, making us feel quite under-valued and very disrespected, as if we are insignificant employees within the public sector because equivalent public sector workers have higher start wages and less responsibilities.'
Ms Caddick, who earns less than £24,000 a year after seven years in the profession said she felt 'angry' at the Assembly Government's decision not to follow Scotland's lead.
'There is meant to be a new national pay scale, equality of access to healthcare and pay for the nursing staff,' she said. 'But such disparity makes you feel used and undervalued and treated without respect.
'The fact that one health minister can appear to support us and another show such little it makes you wonder whether we are that insignificant in the general scheme of things.'
She added, 'In my heart of hearts I could never leave nursing - the remuneration is nothing but the emotional reward you get from patients makes you feel valued.
'But if this continues that way it is and my circumstances change, I will have to look for something more highly paid and that means management, but I'm a hands-on nurse.'
The health spokeswoman for the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Jenny Randerson, said, 'While I am sure that nurses in Wales will be pleased for their Scottish colleagues I can't help wondering why Wales can't manage the same.
'For every £100 earned by nurses in Scotland from April 1, their colleagues in Wales will receive £99.02, for the same work.
'Nurses are being asked to do more and more in the NHS and it is difficult to retain and recruit nurses. Delaying their pay rise is a cheap way for Gordon Brown to save a few pennies, but will do nothing to boost morale in the sector.'
Scottish Health Minister Andy Kerr announced on Tuesday that the finances of the NHS in Scotland were on a 'sound footing', which would enable the country to meet the recommendations of the pay review bodies in full from April 1.
A spokesman for the Welsh Assembly Government said, 'We are bound into a cross-border negotiation in which we have an agreed way forward with the Department of Health. We have no plans to depart from that agreement.'