Thank you for contacting me regarding NHS pay.
I understand your concerns at the Government’s recommendation to the NHS Pay Review Body; I appreciate this is a very emotive issue. It is important to point out, however, that this is merely at a recommendation at this point. No final decision will be made until late Spring when the Pay Review Body publishes its recommendations for the Government to consider.
The NHS has been the frontline throughout the pandemic and has exemplified the best of our country during this crisis. It is right that this is recognised in NHS staff pay. However, we cannot ignore the reality of the public finances.
Since March, 700,000 people have lost their jobs, the economy has shrunk by 10 per cent – the largest fall on record – and our borrowing is at the highest it has ever been outside of wartime. Therefore, there is inevitably a discrepancy between what we would like to increase NHS staff pay by, and what we can afford to. Pay awards must be both fair and affordable.
The government has 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. The Government rightly recognises the sacrifices and dedication of NHS staff by exempting them also, ensuring they receive a pay rise.
Funding the response to COVID-19 has been, and continues to be, a priority. In the Spending Review 2020, the Chancellor provided a further £3 billion to support the NHS recovery on top of the £33.9 billion a year by 2023/24 in the NHS Long Term Plan (LTP). We must ensure that staff are retained and recruited, whilst enabling the ongoing response to COVID-19 and the provision of care to patients is affordable.
It should be noted that as part of the multi-year Agenda for Change deal the deal has an ‘overhang’ of 0.7% in 2021/22. This means, over a million NHS staff will see an increase in pay of 1.7%. This is above the latest available figure for inflation of just 0.6%. Any pay above the headline pay award of 1% would require re-prioritisation.
The Agenda for Change deal also means a pay rise of over 12 per cent for newly qualified nurses, with the average nurse pay now £34,000 per year, and that of junior doctors' has been increased by 8.2 per cent.
The Government continues to invest in the NHS workforce, including £513 million in professional development and increased recruitment, £30 million on staff mental health support including wellbeing hubs and occupational health support, and the new bursary programme giving at least £5,000 each year to new nursing, midwifery, and Allied Health professional students.
I know the Independent Pay Review Bodies will make recommendations in late Spring, which will be considered by the Government. It is right that the Government does not pre-empt these recommendations and I await its publication with interest.