Health minister Dan Poulter fails to commit to nurses' unsocial hours pay

The Conservative MP was quizzed with Labour and Lib Dem counterparts at an RCN hustings event

Health minister Dan Poulter failed to commit to the future of nurses’ unsocial hours payments at a lively political hustings event at the RCN last night.

Norman Lamb, Dan Poulter, Andy Burnham
Left to right: Norman Lamb (Liberal Democrats), Dan Poulter (Conservative), Andy Burnham (Labour). Credit: Barney Newman

At the college’s headquarters in London, Conservative MP Dr Poulter was quizzed along with Labour’s shadow health secretary Andy Burnham and Liberal Democrat care minister Norman Lamb on the future of the NHS ahead of the general election.

In August, Dr Poulter wrote to the NHS Pay Review Body (RB) asking it to review how NHS staff are paid for working evenings and weekends, including potentially scrapping out-of-hours payments altogether. The RB will report in June.

After being pressed by debate chair Jane Hughes, the RCN’s head of external affairs and campaigns, for a commitment not to ‘attack unsocial hours pay’, Dr Poulter said he would not cut nurses’ pay.

But he added: ‘We need to have contracts that work for patients.

‘There are 24% higher mortality rates at weekends and evenings and we have to look at what the fundamental issues are with that.’

Dr Poulter said a Conservative government would be committed to keeping the NHS free at the point of use and it would invest in the technology and training that staff need.

He said his party has provided 6,000 more nurses on wards and it has committed to increase spending on the health service in real terms every year.

‘We will make sure we free up the money for care. We will improve procurement and estates management and make sure we improve the efficiency of how the NHS is run,’ he added.

Mr Burnham said if Labour enters government it would repeal the Health and Social Care Act, recruit 20,000 more nurses and have a year of care budgets to join up health and social care for patients.

Mr Burnham said the NHS could not ‘take five years like the five years it has just had’.

He added: ‘This coming election will be a fight for the future of the NHS and I am determined that Labour is going to win it.’

The Lib Dems is the only party to commit to plugging the £8 billion funding gap in the NHS identified by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens in his Five Year Forward View, said Mr Lamb, and his party would provide ‘genuine’ equality for physical and mental health care in the NHS.

He added: ‘Quite often the culture in the NHS is not good, there is sometimes a bullying culture and I have been exploring ways we can learn the lessons from mutualism, so staff have a say in their organisations.

‘We need to give staff more control over the services they provide.’

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