A gleeful-looking Matt Hancock was today spotted exercising in a London park amid a bitter row over the Government’s 1 per cent pay rise for NHS staff.
The Health Secretary clearly had a spring in his step as he leapt over fences and started doing press-ups in St James’ Park during a run in Westminster this morning.
Mr Hancock seemed unfazed despite facing fury from union bosses and Labour MPs who branded the offer from Number 10 a ‘callous and an enormous slap in the face’.
The Royal College of Nursing announced it is setting up a £35million fighting fund for industrial action, while Unite said it is considering balloting members. Unison is urging the public to join a mass slow handclap next Thursday.
Unions are demanding a 12.5 per cent pay hike for frontline health workers who’ve been battling the pandemic for the past year.
Sir Keir Starmer seized on the announcement to insist that ‘Covid heroes’ deserve more and shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said it showed ‘you simply can’t trust the Tories with the NHS. Meanwhile Tory MPs voiced disquiet.
However, health minister Nadine Dorries – a former nurse – pointed out that the rest of the public sector is facing a complete freeze, warning that the government cannot ‘afford’ to be as generous as it would like with national debt soaring towards £2.8trillion.
In a round of interviews, she said had been ‘pleasantly surprised’ that a 1 per cent offer had been possible – and dismissed the idea that staff will quit, stressing people work in roles such as nursing because they ‘love the job’.
The submission from the government to the NHS pay body is for a headline 1 per cent rise, meaning that some types of staff are likely to get more and others less.
It also notes that a further 0.7 per cent hike to the pay envelope planned under the wider health service modernisation will still go ahead.
The RCN said in a statement: ‘A strike fund is an amount of money that can be used to support workers, who are members of a trade union, to provide some compensation for loss of earnings and campaigning during industrial action.
‘RCN council are determined to have the finances available to our members should they wish to take action.
‘In setting up this fund, the RCN will create the UK’s largest union strike fund overnight. The next steps will be decided in conjunction with our members.’
Unite national officer for health, Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe, said: ‘Following yesterday’s kick-in-the-teeth announcement that the Government wants to peg NHS pay at 1 per cent for 2021-22, Unite will be considering all its options, including the holding of an industrial action ballot, as our pay campaign mounts in the coming weeks.’
Matt Hancock was today pictured exercising in central London
The Health Secretary was snapped smiling while doing a push-up this morning
Unite union rep Ameera Sheikh is pictured outside Downing Street in London
Unions branded the offer from the government a ‘callous and an enormous slap in the face’ after a year on the front line of the coronavirus crisis – with some demanding a 12.5 per cent increase
Health minister Nadine Dorries – a former nurse – pointed out that the rest of the public sector is facing a complete freeze, warning that the government cannot ‘afford’ to be as generous as it would like with national debt soaring towards £2.8trillion
‘Our members and all NHS staff deserve a fair and decent pay rise and a meagre 1 per cent will not cut it.’
The Royal College of Nursing said their members ‘deserve a 12.5 per cent increase’.
Ms Dorries said the Government ‘would love to do more’ but stressed that NHS staff have had significant rises over recent years and will still benefit from progression pay.
She told the BBC’s Today Programme: ‘All of us, the Prime Minister, the Chancellor, I don’t think there’s any of us who have not been touched or have needed NHS services over the past year.
‘The Chancellor believes that this is what we can afford to pay NHS staff across the board, and this is our recommendation to the pay review body, we will have to see what the pay review body come back and say, and we’re also waiting for feedback from unions and all stakeholders across the sector.’
She said the Government could not afford to give NHS staff in England a pay rise of more than 1 per cent.
Ms Dorries insisted nurses had received a 12 per cent increase in pay over the last three years and the average nurse’s salary is around £34,000.
‘Everybody in an ideal world would love to see nurses paid far more, in an ideal world, but we are coming out of a pandemic where we have seen huge borrowing and costs to the Government,’ she told Sky News.
Asked whether people would still be signing up to work for the NHS in light of the proposed 1 per cent pay rise and the pandemic, Health Minister Nadine Dorries told BBC Breakfast: ‘I believe nurses are about more than superficial soundbites, I think nurses love their job. They do their job because they love their job.
‘I know myself, I was a nurse myself and trained as a nurse, I became a nurse because I loved nursing.
‘I hope that those nurses who love their jobs too will stay in the NHS and stick with us through what is a difficult time.’
On Wednesday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed tens of billions of pounds worth of spending in the latest Budget and compared the country’s borrowing to wartime level.
There was no announcement on NHS pay, and in its submission to the NHS Pay Review Body today, the DHSC said that any higher than one per cent ‘would require re-prioritisation’.
It added: ‘COVID-19 has created unavoidable direct and indirect financial impacts in the 2020-21 financial year and contributed to a challenging wider economic context.’
The pay body will make a recommendation in May, but the final decision rests with ministers.
Unison head of health Sara Gorton said: ‘A 1 per cent pay rise is the worst kind of insult the Government could give health workers who’ve given their absolute everything over the past year.
‘The public will be horrified. Staff will think it’s some kind of joke.’
Sir Keir attacked the pay rise, sharing the news on Twitter and writing: ‘You can’t rebuild a country by cutting nurses’ pay.
‘Give our Covid heroes a pay rise.’
Meanwhile, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: ‘A pay cut for NHS staff is the ultimate kick in the teeth to our NHS heroes who have done so much to keep us safe over the past year.
‘Rishi Sunak promised to be open and honest with the public yet shamefully insults every single member of NHS staff, sneaking out this announcement and failing to include any mention of NHS pay in the Budget.’
Jon Skewes of the Royal College of Midwives said the 1 per cent pay rise proposed in evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body would be an ‘absolute insult’.
He added: ‘Our members are working harder than they have ever done to deliver safe care to women and their families in the face of longstanding staffing shortages that existed prior to the pandemic.
‘Do the Government have any idea what a pay proposal like this will do to morale? Midwives have already been eyeing the door and this will undoubtedly push many of them towards it.
Royal College of Nursing general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said: ‘This is pitiful and bitterly disappointing.
‘The Government is dangerously out of touch with nursing staff, NHS workers and the public.
‘It is not a done deal but the Government has revealed its hand for the first time. With the time remaining before the Pay Review Body recommendation, the Government can expect a backlash from a million NHS workers.
‘Taxpayers are supportive of a significant and fair pay rise for NHS workers – this year of all years.
In its submission to the NHS Pay Review Body today, the DHSC said that any higher than one per cent ‘would require re-prioritisation’ and said pandemic had created ‘unavoidable impact’
‘If the Pay Review Body accepts the Government view, a pay award as poor as this would amount to only an extra £3.50 per week take-home pay for an experienced nurse. Nobody would think that is fair in the middle of a pandemic and it will do nothing to prevent the exodus from nursing.’
A Government spokesman said: ‘Over one million NHS staff continue to benefit from multi-year pay deals agreed with trade unions, which have delivered a pay rise of over 12 per cent for newly-qualified nurses and will increase junior doctors’ pay scales by 8.2per cent.
‘Pay rises in the rest of the public sector will be paused this year due to the challenging economic environment, but we will continue to provide pay rises for NHS workers, on top of a £513 million investment in professional development and increased recruitment.
‘That’s with record numbers of doctors and 10,600 more nurses working in our NHS, and with nursing university applications up by over a third.
‘The independent pay review bodies will report in late spring and we will consider their recommendations carefully when we receive them.’
In the document, the DHSC says the pandemic has ‘placed a huge strain on both public and NHS finances’.
‘The economic outlook for 2021/22 remains uncertain and pay awards must be both fair and affordable,’ it wrote.
‘The government announced a pause in public sector pay rises for all workforces, with an exception for employees with basic full-time equivalent salaries of £24,000 or under and for the NHS.
‘In settling the DHSC and NHS budget, the government assumed a headline pay award of 1 per cent for NHS staff. Anything higher would require re-prioritisation.’
They added that this increase was still above the CPI rate of inflation, whilst some staff would see a higher rise under a previously-agreed deal.
Around 1.3 million public sector workers will see a pay freeze while those earning less than £24,000 guaranteed a pay rise of at least £250.
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: ‘The Government’s evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body, due to report in May, saying that it wants the pay of NHS staff pegged at 1 per cent, is callous and takes no account of the public mood.’
Pictured: Dr Chaand Nagpaul, who chairs the British Medical Association council, described the one per cent pay rise as a ‘kick in the teeth’ to the NHS workforce keeping patients alive
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, who chairs the British Medical Association council, said: ‘This is a total dereliction of the Government’s moral duty and obligation to a workforce that is keeping the NHS on its feet and patients alive.’
He added: ‘This comes as a kick in the teeth after a decade in which doctors have experienced real terms pay cuts of up to 30 per cent and in the same week as the Chancellor has announced a huge increase in the taxation on doctor’s pensions that will leave virtually all doctors worse off.’
Rachel Harrison, GMB National Officer, said: ‘This news will come as yet another kick in the teeth for NHS workers.
‘A day after the Budget giveaways for some, the Government is attempting to impose either a 1 per cent pay rise on NHS workers or more cuts after a decade of austerity.
‘Our members in the NHS have risked everything to battle the coronavirus and keep the public safe – a below inflation rise would be a paltry insult.’
Ms Dorries also insisted there would be ‘no cuts’ to NHS budgets going forward.
Budget documents revealed there is a planned cut of £30 billion in day-to-day spending at the Department for Health and Social Care from April of this year, falling from £199.2billion to £169.1billion.
Ms Dorries said: ‘That £30billion, I believe, was a reduction on the pandemic spending – there are actually real-time increases going into the NHS budget year on year.
‘That figure, I’m afraid, is completely wrong – that’s not on our annual funding of the NHS, that was on our pandemic budget, which is completely separate.
‘There are absolutely no cuts moving forward to frontline NHS services either in waiting lists, accident and emergency. There are just no cuts moving forward – there are real-time increases going into the NHS budget.’