Boris Johnson’s government has sparked anger by rejecting the chance to announce a pay rise for NHS staff in England – accused of “bottling” the promised hike in salaries.
The government was expected to reveal a 3 per cent pay rise for health service staff on Wednesday, but health minister Helen Whately said a final decision had been delayed.
“The government asked for recommendations from NHS pay review bodies,” the minister told MPs in the Commons. “The government is seriously considering those recommendations, and we will be responding as soon as we possibly can.”
Labour MP Rosena Allin-Khan, shadow health minister, said the failure to deliver the pay rise before the summer break was “an insult of the highest order” – adding: “Our NHS staff deserve better than this.”
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth added: “So what’s happened to the government response to the NHS pay review body? Our NHS staff deserve a fair pay rise not a pay cut.”
The government had been widely expected to offer NHS staff in England a 3 per cent pay rise this week in a bid to stave off the threat of strikes by doctors and nurses.
It followed outrage over the initial proposal from the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) of only a 1 per cent pay rise – telling the independent NHS Pay Review Body that was all the government could afford.
Labour, the Lib Dems and the health unions said sticking with a 1 per cent rise would effectively amount to a pay cut, since it was below inflation levels of 1.5 per cent.
Lib Dem MP Munira Wilson, the party’s health spokesperson, said on Wednesday: “Words and clapping are cheap – where on earth is the widely-reported and trailed pay deal announcement that was expected today?”
Ms Wilson said: “Does the minister really believe a 1 per cent pay rise, which is actually a pay cut, is actually giving NHS doctors and nurses what they need?”
Speaking later, Ms Wilson added: “After all that build-up, the government bottled it and have once again turned their backs on those who are getting us through this pandemic.”
The GMB union described the government’s non-announcement of an NHS pay award as “completely outrageous”, while the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said the further delay was “shameful”.
RCN chief executive Pat Cullen said: “This treatment of our NHS workers is shameful. Ministers are holding them in contempt and we have no choice but to condemn this behaviour.”
Ms Cullen added: “Ministers need to stop the wrangling and come clean about the pay rise they believe NHS staff deserve. Nursing staff will only accept this pay award if it’s significant, consolidated and fully funded with additional monies.”
The RCN had demanded pay be boosted by 12.5 per cent – so it remains unclear if a 3 per cent rise, if it does come in the weeks ahead, will be high enough to placate union members.
The British Medical Association (BMA) has demanded a 5 per cent salary increase, warning that many doctors were suffering from burn out as a third wave of Covid hits home.
Expressing his anger over a lack of announcement on NHS pay on Wednesday, Midlands mental health nurse Matt Tacey said: “It’s utterly frustrating and I think it’s yet another example of how little this government thinks of us and how much they undervalue us.
“I just think, if I’m being completely honest, I think they’re being cowards. If we are up to 3 per cent, inflation is at 2.4 per cent – so in reality, in real terms, we’re getting a 0.6 per cent pay rise. Which, considering what we’ve done over the last 18 months, is criminal.”