Health workers had been in line to receive a 2.1% pay rise before the coronavirus pandemic, the head of NHS England has confirmed
The UK government has suggested that NHS staff may be receiving the 1% Pay rise this year, which has sparked an angry backlash from both doctors and nurses.
Sir Simon Stevens has told MPs that he wanted workers to get “proper reward” for their efforts during the COVID-19 and he said that he could “see the attraction” of a one-off payment in the form of a bonus.
But he backed up the government’s overall approach to the dispute about NHS pay, saying that it should be up to an official pay review panel.
The Labour Party has said that the 1% rise that has been recommended for the year of 2021 actually amounts to a pay cut, once inflation rates have been taken into account.
This comes after speeding up the easing of the UK’s third national lockdown risks leaving the nation “flying blind” to the risks of another surge in coronavirus cases, the government’s chief scientific adviser has warned the country.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “The head of the NHS has confirmed what we already knew: the Conservatives have broken their promise to the NHS and are cutting nurses’ pay.”
He told an audience at the IPPR think tank that the 1% pay award was “morally obnoxious” and was:
“only going to exacerbate the under-staffing issues we have in the NHS”.
Ministers will be making their final decision in May, following the independent panel that will make its own pay recommendations for the year of 2021/22.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defended the 1% pay rise, saying that it was as much as the government could afford to raise pay by “at the present time”.
Nurses have described the increase as “insulting”, with unions threatening to take strike action and warning that this “pitiful” pay rise may lead to staff quitting their jobs, which will worsen staffing issues within the national health service.
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has paid tribute to “all those working on the frontline of our NHS and other public services” amid the Treasury questions in the House of Commons.
He said that the UK government had “exempted” the NHS from a public sector pay freeze and said that “NHS workers will receive a pay rise next year”.
Sir Simon said to the Health and Social Care Committee that he had budgeted for the 2.1% rise that NHS workers were expecting but “things have changed” since 2019.
He added: “You would expect the head of the health service to want to see properly rewarded NHS staff, particularly given everything that the service has been through over the course of the last year.
“And so I think the right way to resolve this is the path the government has actually set out, which is to ask the independent pay review bodies to look at all of the evidence… and be able to independently make a fair recommendation so that NHS staff get the pay and reward that they deserve.”
This comes after visitors of care homes will be required to carry out COVID-19 tests prior to the visits, must wear PPE and are asked to limit physical contact. Visits to care homes from a nominated friend or relative will be permitted in England from today, but hugging and kissing the residents of care homes is still off limits.
Some Conservative MPs have been calling for a one-off bonus, of the kind that was offered to NHS staff within Scotland and Northern Ireland, as a “thank you” for their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Asked about this idea, Sir Simon said: “That’s a discussion to be had in the round, whether that or whether underlying other action is the right approach, obviously we can see the attractions of that but that might not be the only answer.