Government accused of ‘snatching away’ promised NHS pay rise as the outrage grows

Government accused of ‘snatching away’ promised NHS pay rise as the outrage grows

The organisation representing NHS Trusts in England is challenging the government over its defence of a controversial 1% pay offer to health workers.

Growing controversy

NHS Providers said the NHS has conducted detailed work around implementing a long-term plan. It claimed that in this plan the government assumed an NHS pay rise in 2021/22 of 2.1%, not 1%.

It comes amid growing anger at the pay offer, with the main nurses’ union setting up a £35m industrial action fund. And another union is urging the public to support a slow hand clap next week as protest against the proposals.

Deputy chief executive of NHS Providers Saffron Cordery said:

It is very disappointing that the Government has said that a 1% pay rise is all that is affordable when they know that the assumption was that the 2021/22 NHS pay rise would be 2.1% – and that this was covered by the NHS revenue settlement announced by Theresa May in June 2018.

This settlement was then enshrined in a formal act of Parliament, the NHS Funding Act 2020. These assumptions, published in June 2019 were, of course, made before the events of the last 12 months which have significantly strengthened the case for a larger pay rise for NHS staff.

In a survey of trust leaders for our evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body, 82% of respondents wanted a pay uplift of at least 3%, with only 14% saying it should be 2% or less.

Some will think that the Government is snatching planned pay rises from the pockets of deserving NHS staff so they don’t have to fund the extra costs of Covid-19, which the Chancellor personally committed he would meet.

“Slap in the face”

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned a large number of nurses could leave the profession due to the “slap in the face” from the government. RCN has decided to set up a £35m industrial action fund to support members wanting to strike.

Patricia Marquis, the RCN’s South East regional director, told Times Radio:

We know there are significant numbers who are planning to leave and this slap in the face from the Government really has just reinforced their belief that they are not valued by either the Government or perhaps some of the public in the way they would want to be.

Marquis said there were 40,000 nursing vacancies when the nation went into the pandemic. Staff have been working to cover those roles.

Unite, which represents tens of thousands of NHS workers, is also warning of industrial action. Meanwhile Unison said people should stand on their doorsteps and balconies for a mass slow handclap at 8pm on Thursday 11 March. The action is intended to show what people think about the planned “derisory” wage increase.

The pay rise snatcher

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said:

It’s now clear beyond doubt that Rishi Sunak has snatched away the pay rise staff were promised by Ministers in the NHS long term funding plan.

Not only is Rishi Sunak cutting the pay of hardworking nurses he’s broken his promise to give the NHS whatever it needed to get through Covid.

Labour shadow health minister Alex Norris said the country was in “unprecedented circumstances” and NHS workers “deserve a pay rise” following a gruelling 12 months on the front line of the epidemic.

He told the BBC:

Choosing actively when trying to balance the budget to take money from the NHS pay cut seems a very strange set of priorities to us.

Industrial action

Rehana Azam, national officer of the GMB union, said:

Unless the Government get real and send through a proper option, it’s very probable this will lead to industrial unrest, something no-one wants to see. After 10 years of running the NHS down, it’s clear that it’s the same old Tories playing the same old tunes – and NHS staff aren’t going to listen to it anymore.

Sara Gorton, head of health at Unison, said the government sticking to its 1% pay offer will “cause widespread industrial upset”.

Simon Walsh, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association’s UK consultants committee, said the “derisory” recommendation “reflects that the Government is really out of touch with the feeling of the public on this”.

He added:

I hope (the Government) realise that their policies are in danger of preventing the NHS being able to recover from this pandemic and catch up with all the backlog of work.

Carving up pay

A government spokesperson said more than one million NHS staff continued to benefit from multi-year pay deals agreed with trade unions, which had delivered a pay rise of over 12% for newly-qualified nurses and will increase junior doctors’ pay scales by 8.2%.

They added:

Pay rises in the rest of the public sector will be paused this year due to the challenging economic environment, but we will continue to provide pay rises for NHS workers, on top of a £513 million investment in professional development and increased recruitment. That’s with record numbers of doctors and 10,600 more nurses working in our NHS, and with nursing university applications up by over a third.

The independent pay review bodies will report in late spring and we will consider their recommendations carefully when we receive them.

Health secretary Matt Hancock told a press conference on 5 March that NHS staff had been “carved out” of a pay freeze affecting other public sector employees. And he said that the government had to take affordability into account when considering pay.

He argued:

We have set out what is affordable given the very significant challenges in public finances.

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