Nursing union slams 'pitiful' one per cent pay rise for NHS staff

4 March 2021, 19:43 | Updated: 4 March 2021, 19:53

The Royal College of Nursing called the pay rise for NHS staff bitterly disappointing
The Royal College of Nursing called the pay rise for NHS staff bitterly disappointing. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Unions have branded the government's suggestion of a one per cent pay rise for NHS workers "pitiful" and "some kind of joke".

Ministers have been accused of giving health staff a "kick in the teeth" for recommending the nominal pay increase after having fought on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic.

Several unions and the Labour Party have said that evidence given to the NHS Pay Review Body from the Department of Health was a "callous and an enormous slap in the face" for workers.

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."

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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.

"Rishi Sunak promised to be open and honest with the public yet shamefully insults every single member of NHS staff, sneaking out this announcement and failing to include any mention of NHS pay in the Budget."

Royal College of Nursing general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said: "This is pitiful and bitterly disappointing. The government is dangerously out of touch with nursing staff, NHS workers and the public.

"It is not a done deal but the government has revealed its hand for the first time. With the time remaining before the Pay Review Body recommendation, the government can expect a backlash from a million NHS workers. Taxpayers are supportive of a significant and fair pay rise for NHS workers - this year of all years.

"If the Pay Review Body accepts the government view, a pay award as poor as this would amount to only an extra £3.50 per week take-home pay for an experienced nurse. Nobody would think that is fair in the middle of a pandemic and it will do nothing to prevent the exodus from nursing."

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A government spokesman said: "Over one million NHS staff continue to benefit from multi-year pay deals agreed with trade unions, which have delivered a pay rise of over 12 per cent for newly-qualified nurses and will increase junior doctors' pay scales by 8.2 per cent.

"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."

Jon Skewes of the Royal College of Midwives said a one per cent pay rise would be an "absolute insult" to hardworking midwives, maternity support workers and other NHS staff.

He added: "Our members are working harder than they have ever done to deliver safe care to women and their families in the face of longstanding staffing shortages that existed prior to the pandemic.

"Do the government have any idea what a pay proposal like this will do to morale? Midwives have already been eyeing the door and this will undoubtedly push many of them towards it. Our members and all NHS staff deserve a fair and decent pay rise and a meagre one per cent will not cut it."

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: "The government's evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body, due to report in May, saying that it wants the pay of NHS staff pegged at one per cent, is callous and takes no account of the public mood."

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, who chairs the British Medical Association council, 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."

He added: "This comes as a kick in the teeth after a decade in which doctors have experienced real terms pay cuts of up to 30 per cent and in the same week as the chancellor has announced a huge increase in the taxation on doctor's pensions that will leave virtually all doctors worse off."

Rachel Harrison, GMB National Officer, said: "This news will come as yet another kick in the teeth for NHS workers. A day after the Budget giveaways for some, the government is attempting to impose either a one per cent pay rise on NHS workers or more cuts after a decade of austerity.

"Our members in the NHS have risked everything to battle the coronavirus and keep the public safe - a below inflation rise would be a paltry insult."