The government was accused of an ‘utter shambles’ today as an expected announcement on NHS pay failed to arrive.
Briefings have been swirling all week that staff will get a 3 per cent hike believed to have been recommended by the review body.
Social care minister Helen Whately was widely anticipated to reveal the move in a statement to the Commons this afternoon.
But she did not give any clarity, merely saying that the government will set out its position ‘as soon as we can’.
It raises the prospect that health workers could be left in the dark until September, as Parliament is due to break up for the summer from tomorrow.
Furious unions said they were ‘disgusted’ by the government’s silence, branding it an insult to NHS staff who ‘put themselves in harm’s way throughout the pandemic’.
The 3 per cent pay rise had already been dismissed by unions, amid threats of strike action from surgeons and senior doctors.
At the start of July the British Medical Association advised ‘exhausted and demoralised’ members to take industrial action if the annual pay bump is not increased to at least five per cent.
The Royal College of Nursing has called for a 12.5 per cent rise. And campaigners will hand in a petition at Downing Street later signed by 800,000 people, calling for a 15 per cent boost.
Social care minister Helen Whately was widely anticipated to reveal the move in a statement to the Commons this afternoon
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (left) joined protesters from the GMB trade union outside Downing Street yesterday where they delivered a petition signed by 800,000 people for better pay for NHS staff
The government was accused of an ‘utter shambles’ today as an expected announcement on NHS pay failed to arrive
Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth was among those bewildered by the lack of an announcement
Unions have warned that an expected 3 per cent pay rise for NHS staff is not enough. PIctured, protests in London earlier this month
A 3 per cent rise for NHS staff would be above the latest rate of CPI inflation – although it has been rising fast
Wages have been spiking but the ONS pointed out the figures are being warped by the effects of job protection measures including furlough
Speaking in the Commons today, Ms Whately said: ‘The government asked for recommendations from NHS pay review bodies.
‘The government is seriously considering those recommendations, and we will be responding as soon as we possibly can.’
Repeatedly challenged by MPs on what had happened to the announcement, Ms Whately said: ‘We will be announcing our decision on NHS pay in due course.’
Labour voiced outrage at the absence of an offer for staff.
Shadow health minister Justin Madders tweeted: ‘Government say they cant afford to offer NHS staff more than 1%, see the backlash so brief they are going to give 3% but then come to Parliament to make a statement on it….and say nothing at all. What an utter shambles.’
And shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said: ‘After these past 16 months our brave, hardworking NHS staff deserve so much better than this insulting shambles.
‘Rather than a real terms pay cut Sajid Javid needs to get a grip and deliver the decent, fair pay rise NHS staff deserve.’
RCN acting general secretary Pat Cullen said the government needs to show it is ‘serious about filling the tens of thousands of vacant nurse jobs’.
‘Low-level awards of a couple of percent would look timid and insult staff when the challenges they face have never been greater.’
Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: ‘If the Pay Review Body is recommending a 3 per cent pay rise, it is a small step forward on the insulting 1 per cent the Government offered in March.
‘However, this recommendation in no way recognises the 19 per cent drop in real earnings that many NHS workers have endured in the last decade, nor the immense sacrifices that health staff have and are continuing to make as Covid infection rates rapidly rise again.
‘It doesn’t match the 4 per cent the Scottish Government offered to NHS workers backdated to December 2020.
‘Three per cent 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.’
Figures released by the Office for National Statistics earlier this month showed that growth in average total pay (including bonuses) was 7.3 per cent and regular pay (excluding bonuses) was 6.6 per cent.
However it acknowledged that the figure was being inflated by job protection measures including the furlough over the past 16 months.
Because many workers were being paid not to work or had their hours drastically reduced, last year’s figures slumped massively.
But it means that as the economy opened up this year there was a counteracting increase as workplaces opened up again.
Viewed through this prism a three per cent pay increase may be seen as more generous as it might initially appear.
Striking would involve stopping all overtime, paid and unpaid. Doctors generally work up to 20 per cent over their contracted hours every week, the BMA said at the start of July.
However the move could be highly disruptive as the NHS tries to clear record backlogs triggered by the pandemic and the threat came before the current spike in Covid cases.
A record 5.12million people are on waiting lists in England for routine care, the highest since records began. Among them, 65,000 have been waiting for more than 18 months.
In March, then health secretary Matt Hancock infuriated NHS staff by claiming the 1 per cent pay offer for frontline staff was ‘fair’ and insisted no-one cares about nurses more than him.
He told the Downing Street press conference the offer, which medics have described as a ‘slap in the face’, was based on ‘affordability’ and that the pandemic had brought ‘financial consequences’.
Mr Hancock – who promised last year he would ‘fight’ to ensure the NHS was given a ‘reward’ in the aftermath of the pandemic – claimed he ‘bowed to no-one in his admiration’ for nurses, adding: ‘I learnt that at the knee of my grandmother who was a nurse.’