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Nurses have accused the government of “shameful” behaviour after care minister Helen Whately failed to announce a pay award for NHS staff that she was expected to raise the issue in a Commons statement this afternoon.
Suggestions that a 3% pay increase could be imminent for NHS staff have been circulating in Westminster this week, but when Whately finished her Ministerial Update on the NHS in the Commons this afternoon, nothing on pay had been announced.
NHS staff have long called for an increase of even greater than 3% to wages to match the expected inflation rise of 4% predicted by the Bank of England. Nursing union the RCN has recommended a 12.5% increase to pay as reward for their work throughout the Covid pandemic.
Shadow health minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan questioned why no increase had been announced today, as was widely expected.
“Once again we find this government has had to row back on a shoddy, ill-thought-through position with their 1% pay rise – a real terms pay cut, rejected by the independent pay body,” she told the Commons.
“So what did the government do? Nothing. Less than an hour ago there were competing briefings on what the deal was going to be but it turned out to be nothing.
“Our NHS staff deserve better than this.”
In a strong rebuke of the Tory minister, Dr Khan, who has worked A&E shifts during the pandemic, questioned the fairness of no new pay update for NHS staff.
“Is this really fair on NHS staff who have had to bury their colleagues as well as their families?,” she said.
“Is this really fair on NHS staff who have been sent like lambs to the slaughter without appropriate PPE to work throughout this pandemic? And that is using their words.”
Social care minister Helen Whatley said she was “shocked” by some of Dr Rosena Allin-Khan’s remarks in the Commons and urged her to consider her language
The shadow minister had called the lack of clarity on NHS pay an “insult of the highest order” pic.twitter.com/u7ffohX7s9
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Whately said that the government was still considering recommendations from NHS pay review bodies and that the government would be responding as soon possible.
She also said she was “shocked by some of the language” used by Dr Allin-Khan, adding what is said in the Commons has “ripples beyond this chamber, and so the tone of what we say is extremely important”.
Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Munira Wilson said the government had “bottled it” and accused them of “turning their backs” on the people who had helped the country through the pandemic.
Unions representing NHS bodies have reacted with fury. The Royal College of Nursing accused ministers of being “shameful” for delaying the pay award.
“This treatment of our NHS workers is shameful,” RCN Interim General Secretary and Chief Executive, Pat Cullen, said.
“Ministers are holding them in contempt and we have no choice but to condemn this behaviour.
“With tens of thousands of nursing vacancies and thousands more considering their future in the profession, the government is sending the worst possible signal with this political gameplaying.
She said ministers needed to “come clean” with details of the pay situation, but added that nursing staff will only accept this pay award if it’s “significant, consolidated and fully funded with additional monies.”
A spokesperson for Unison’s health team, said: “We’re furious. The absolute bottom line is that NHS staff should be treated with respect. At any time, not least after the year we’ve had. The government has given none today. An absolute failure of common courtesy.”
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