The Government is facing huge outcry after proposing that NHS staff in England be restricted to a pay rise of just one per cent.
Ministers have defended the proposal, which has been submitted to the pay review body, saying that the economy is under “huge pressure” as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Health service unions have branded the pay rise as “a kick in the teeth” for staff who have given “absolutely everything” over the past year.
The Royal College of Nursing’s Fair Pay for Nursing Campaign is calling for a fully funded 12.5 per cent pay increase for all nursing staff covered by Agenda for Change terms.
‘Pitiful and bitterly disappointing’
The proposal has been condemned by RCN general secretary, Dame Donna Kinnair, who said that the pay rise would amount to an increase of £3.50 a week in take home pay for an experienced nurse.
She said: “This is pitiful and bitterly disappointing. The Government is dangerously out of touch with nursing staff, NHS workers and the public.
“Nobody would think that is fair in the middle of a pandemic and it will do nothing to prevent the exodus from nursing.”
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, who chairs the British Medical Association council, called the proposal a “kick in the teeth”.
He said “This is a total dereliction of the Government’s moral duty and obligation to a workforce that is keeping the NHS on its feet and patients alive.”
‘Worst kind of insult’
Unison head of health, Sara Gorton, said: “A one per cent pay rise is the worst kind of insult the Government could give health workers who’ve given their absolute everything over the past year.
“The public will be horrified. Staff will think it’s some kind of joke.”
‘Ultimate kick in the teeth’
Labour Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “A pay cut for NHS staff is the ultimate kick in the teeth to our NHS heroes who have done so much to keep us safe over the past year.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also criticised the proposed pay rise, Tweeting: “You can’t rebuild a country by cutting nurses’ pay.
“Give our Covid heroes a pay rise.”
‘The most we can afford’
Health Minister Nadine Dorries said that the Government could not afford to give NHS staff in England a larger pay rise beyond one per cent, following the revelation that the figure has been submitted to the sector’s pay review body.
Dorries defended the Government’s position, saying that nurses have received a 12 per cent increase in pay over the past three years, and that an average nurse’s salary is around £34,000.
Speaking to Sky, Dorries said: “Everybody in an ideal world would love to see nurses paid far more, in an ideal world, but we are coming out of a pandemic where we have seen huge borrowing and costs to the Government.
“I think it is important to note that the priority of the Government has been about protecting people’s livelihoods, about continuing the furlough scheme, about fighting the pandemic, and we’ve put huge effort into that.
“We do not want nurses to go unrecognised - or doctors - and no other public sector employee is receiving a pay rise, there has been a pay freeze.
“But the one per cent offer is the most we think we can afford which we have put forward to the pay review body.”