Government needs proper pay strategy to end healthcare strikes, says ex-NHS CEO

A former NHS England chief executive has said that the Government needs a proper pay strategy to end its dispute with striking healthcare workers.

Sir David Nicholson told Tonight with Andrew Marr on LBC on Wednesday that he had “never seen” the pressure the NHS has on it at the moment.

“I chair two hospitals, and I was reflecting earlier that I started in 1978 in the NHS, and I’ve never seen the pressure that we have on the system that we have at the moment,” he said.

NHS blueprint
Ex-chief executive of the NHS Sir David Nicholson (Fiona Hanson/PA)

Sir David was the chief executive of the NHS from 2006-2013 and, following a restructuring of the service, he was the chief executive of NHS England from 2013-2014. He is now the chair of Sandwell and West Birmingham Trust, and Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust.

He told Marr that the Government must implement a “proper pay strategy” to end the NHS strike crisis.

“What we need is a proper pay strategy – we’re in a bit of a hole at the moment aren’t we in terms of the pay negotiations,” he said.

“As someone said today, the Government can’t win it, but they can stop it.

“So, I think the Government need to do what they’re there to do which is to stop it, solve the problem. But we need a proper pay policy.”

He also warned that attempting to “beat down” staff with attrition would lead to recruitment problems in the future.

“If we think we’re going to beat down our staff with attrition then it’s simply going to create even more problems going forward in terms of recruiting staff and keeping them, it needs a solution,” he said.

He said that social care wages are so low that the service is struggling to attract workers.

“But at the other end in terms of low pay but particularly in social care we’ve got people doing really important care work on £10 an hour,” he said.

“We have problems in the Black Country because Amazon opened one of their depots and suddenly a whole load of our people went off to work for Amazon.

“We recognise it’s not going to be solved overnight but we need a proper strategy over the next few years to get pay in the right place.”