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NHS staff in England awarded 3% pay rise - but unions say it is ‘grossly inadequate’

NHS staff in England are to receive a three per cent pay increase, the government has confirmed.

It will be backdated to April, when the increase was due, and paid to staff including nurses, paramedics, consultants, dentists and salaried GPs.

Health secretary Sajid Javid
Health secretary Sajid Javid

On average, this will equate to an additional £1,000 a year for nurses, the Department of Health said. Those at the top of band five currently earn a salary of £30,600.

Many porters and cleaners will receive around £540.

The government accepted recommendations from the NHS Pay Review Body - but unions described the offer as “frankly appalling” and said “NHS staff are on their knees” fighting the pandemic.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “NHS staff are rightly receiving a pay rise this year despite the wider public sector pay pause, in recognition of their extraordinary efforts.

“We asked the independent pay review bodies for their recommendations and I’m pleased to accept them in full, with a 3% pay rise for all staff in scope, from doctors and nurses to paramedics and porters.

“We will back the NHS as we focus our efforts on getting through this pandemic and tackling the backlog of other health problems that has built up. I will continue to do everything I can to support all those in our health service who are working so tirelessly to care for patients.”

Minister for care Helen Whately said: “I am determined to make the NHS the best place to work for all our staff and we continue to invest in recruitment and retention with over 45,300 more staff in the NHS now compared to a year ago, including nearly 9,000 more nurses and over 4,000 more doctors.

“Our NHS staff have worked incredibly hard to fight the pandemic for over 18 months and I’m glad to confirm we are accepting the pay review body’s recommendations in full this year, so staff in their remit will receive a three per cent pay rise.”

A statement had been expected in the House of Commons at lunchtime on the pay, but failed to materialise, only for the Department for Health and Social Care to issued a press release later confirming the news.

The NHS pay rise will include salaried GPs
The NHS pay rise will include salaried GPs

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “The government’s acceptance of the NHS pay review body recommendation is an improvement on its earlier miserly one per cent proposal.

“But the increase falls short of what NHS staff deserve after the past 16 months. It’s less than the wage rise given to Scottish health colleagues and not enough to protect the NHS.

“Porters, cleaners, nurses, paramedics and other health workers have waited for months for what they hoped would be a fair deal.

“Ministers could have paid up last year if they really valued the NHS. Instead, staff have been made to hang on until the summer – long after their wage rise was due.

“Health workers are now expected to meet the deadly challenge of a new virus wave. The Government has failed to show staff just how valued they are to us all. There’s a risk many may not stay around to see the NHS through the pandemic and the clearing of the Covid backlog.”

Pat Cullen, interim general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “After a shambolic day, comes a shambolic announcement. When the Treasury expects inflation to be 3.7 per cent, ministers are knowingly cutting pay for an experienced nurse by over £200 in real-terms.

“Hospitals and other parts of the NHS are struggling to recruit nurses and healthcare support workers. The government has been warned that many more are on the verge of leaving. With today’s decision, ministers have made it even harder to provide safe care to patients.

“This announcement is light on detail. It must be fully funded with additional monies for the NHS and ringfenced for the workforce bill.

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust employs more than 10,000 people
Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust employs more than 10,000 people

“Nursing staff will remain dignified in responding to what will be a bitter blow to many, but the profession will not take this lying down. We will be consulting our members on what action they would like to take next.”

And Rachel Harrison, GMB national officer, said: “NHS staff are on their knees – exhausted, fatigued and anxious – as we look set to enter another wave of the Covid pandemic. Staff morale is rock bottom.

“Hospitals and ambulance services are operating under extreme pressures due to rising demand and staffing shortages.

‘Now, rather than focusing on staff welfare they are being advised to enter the workplace against self-isolation advice and now given this frankly appalling pay offer.

“This was the opportunity for government to turn their clapping in to genuine recognition. Their response is paltry. They have failed spectacularly.

“NHS workers know their worth and so do the public – shame on the government, who don’t.”

Meanwhile, Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “The Pay Review Body’s recommendation of three per cent is grossly inadequate and underwhelming, and in no way recognises the 19 per cent drop in real earnings that many NHS workers have endured in the last decade, nor the Herculean sacrifices that health staff have and are continuing to make as Covid infection rates rapidly rise again.

“Members have been telling us that three per cent would be insulting and show that they are not valued – it doesn’t even match the four per cent the Scottish government offered to NHS workers backdated to December 2020.

The government pay offer will be backdated to April.
The government pay offer will be backdated to April.

“It will also do very little to staunch the escalating recruitment and retention crisis and free up resources to tackle the enormous backlog in non-Covid procedures, such as hip replacements.

“It is estimated there are 100,000 vacancies in the health service and very little in the way of a plan to recruit the numbers needed.”

The Department of Health said: “The government committed to providing NHS staff with a pay uplift in recognition of the unique impact of the pandemic on the NHS.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “NHS staff and their unions, together with massive public support, have forced the government to abandon their plan to give our NHS workers a real-terms pay cut.

“But it is still less than the four% rise NHS staff will get in Scotland. Outsourced NHS staff such as many cleaners and porters are excluded, and ministers are still freezing the pay of other key workers who kept us going through the pandemic, like care workers and teachers.

“Key worker pay is the acid test for the Prime Minister’s promise to ‘build back fairer’. Every key worker deserves a decent standard of living for their family, but too often their hard work does not pay. We owe them better.”

British Dental Association deputy chairman Peter Crooks said: “An uplift on the right side of inflation is progress. A decade of pay restraint has taken its toll, and we can never return to recommendations that fail to reflect the cost of living.

“Even before Covid, a growing number of colleagues saw no future in the NHS. If we’re ever going to make this service a going concern then fair pay must remain the rule.”

Jon Skewes, executive director for external affairs at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said: “At least the limbo our hardworking members were left in by our shambolic government has ended.

“We are disappointed that maternity staff in England will not receive a headline increase of per cent like their colleagues in Scotland. Through our evidence to the Pay Review Body, we managed to secure more than the one per cent proposed by the government, but again this is not backdated far enough or on par with the pay award in Scotland.

“The government has already admitted that the NHS in England is short of over 2,000 midwives that are desperately needed to improve safety in maternity services. What no one wants to see is further staff shortages, but midwives and maternity staff have had enough, they feel undervalued, and some have already voted with their feet and a pay award of 3% may not be enough to retain them.”

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