Unions have warned of industrial action over the three per cent pay rise for NHS staff in England and Wales, accusing ministers of failing to recognise their efforts during the pandemic.
The government has already come under attack for previously recommending a one per cent pay rise earlier this year, despite the pressure NHS staff have been under over the last 18 months.
Who will get the pay rise?
The pay rise was recommended by an independent body and will be given to nurses, paramedics, consultants, dentists and salaried GPs in England, but does not cover doctors and dentists in training.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the uplift will mean the “average nurse” will receive an extra £1,000 per year, while porters and cleaners will get around £540.
In Wales, Health Minister Eluned Morgan agreed a three per cent pay rise for all NHS staff, and in May, health workers across Scotland accepted a pay rise from the Scottish government that is worth at least 4 per cent for most staff.
The initial one per cent pay rise for staff was due in April and the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) made its recommendation almost a month ago. A Commons statement was expected on the uplift on Wednesday (21 July) lunchtime, but failed to materialise with the DHSC later issuing a press release saying a three per cent rise will be paid, backdated to April.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the three per cent pay increase will be awarded this year in recognition of the “extraordinary contribution” NHS staff have made over the course of the pandemic.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid added: “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 three per cent pay rise for all staff in scope, from doctors and nurses to paramedics and porters.”
A 'bitter blow' for staff
Unions have hit out against the uplift and criticised the government for failing to effectively reward staff for their efforts.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has been highly critical of the increase, describing it as a “bitter blow” and adding that the uplift would actually be a cut once inflation is taken into account.
Patricia Marquis, England director of the RCN, told BBC Two’s Newsnight the award left nurses feeling they were not “valued for what they do”.
She told the programme the union would consult with its members, saying: “Once we have their view – which we suspect will be to say they are unhappy about the level – we will then be considering with them what the next steps might be, which could include consideration of industrial action most certainly.”
The RCN had been campaigning for a 12.5 per cent pay increase and said the three per cent rise will amount to a cut for staff once inflation has been taken into account.
RCN general secretary Pat Cullen explained: “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.
“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.”
The HCSA, the hospital doctors’ union, said it will meet in an emergency session to discuss its response to a government pay offer.
HCSA president Dr Claudia Paoloni added: “This offer represents an improvement on the low bar the government itself set earlier in the year, but is an insult to junior doctors who have once again received a lesser rise than their senior colleagues.
“These are doctors who have stood side by side with NHS colleagues in mounting the Covid response, rising to every challenge placed before them.
“These Consultants of the future will rightly feel aggrieved that once again they have been singled out for worse treatment, ignoring their efforts during this pandemic.
“We fear that given rampant inflation this offer will also be insufficient to address the looming impact on career choices among all grades after the long battle against Covid, which has caused many hospital doctors to reconsider their future, either by cutting hours or leaving the profession altogether. One in 10 are considering leaving permanently.”