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Nurses want better staffing rather than a pay rise, claims care minister

Helen Whately defends ‘insulting’ 1% pay offer as study reveals impact of austerity on nurses
Minister of state for care Helen Whately

Helen Whately criticised for defending insulting 1% pay offer as study reveals full impact of austerity on nurse pay

Nurses would rather have better staffing and improved annual leave than a pay rise, the minister of state for care has claimed.

Pay is rarely mentioned claims care minister

Care minister Helen Whately told a parliamentary debate on NHS pay: I have had many conversations with NHS staff from porters, healthcare assistants, nurses I will say from those conversations that pay is rarely mentioned, she said.

They want more staff working alongside them, so they can have more time to care for patients.

Ms Whately added staff also wanted more annual

Helen Whately criticised for defending ‘insulting’ 1% pay offer as study reveals full impact of austerity on nurse pay

Minister of state for care Helen Whately

Nurses would rather have better staffing and improved annual leave than a pay rise, the minister of state for care has claimed.

Pay is rarely mentioned claims care minister

Care minister Helen Whately told a parliamentary debate on NHS pay: ‘I have had many conversations with NHS staff from porters, healthcare assistants, nurses… I will say from those conversations that pay is rarely mentioned,’ she said.

‘They want more staff working alongside them, so they can have more time to care for patients.’

Ms Whately added staff also wanted more annual leave so they could spend time with their families.

Her comments provoked criticism from opposition MPs during the debate on the government’s recommendation of a 1% pay rise for Agenda for Change (AfC) staff in the 2021-22 pay round.

Study shows Agenda for Change staff have had a real-terms wage cut

Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree Paula Barker said she was astounded that the minister was trying to defend the pay rise recommendation.

Ms Barker, who had called the debate, said: ‘I would like to extend an invitation to the minister to meet the NHS staff that I speak to, because clearly they will tell you that what they need and what they want is a pay rise.’

The debate coincided with new research which suggests staff on the AfC pay structure in England have suffered a real-terms wage cut over the last decade.

The analysis by policy and economics consultancy firm London Economics found that in 2010-2011, staff at the bottom of band 5 – the annual starting salary for a newly-qualified nurse in England – were paid on average £24,176, including basic pay and any additional elements. If pay had increased with annual inflation, this would have risen to £31,750 by 2020-21. Instead, in 2020-21 the average band 5 pay stands at £28,223, meaning average pay has declined by 11% in real terms in the last decade.

Photo of Dame Donna Kinnair
Dame Professor Donna Kinnair Picture: Justine Desmond

1% pay offer comes on top of years of austerity, says RCN chief

RCN general secretary Dame Professor Donna Kinnair said the analysis showed the devastating real-term cuts to NHS salaries over the past decade.

‘Years of austerity have left nursing staff badly underpaid. The government cannot possibly stand by this insulting 1% offer,’ she said.

The independent NHS Pay Review Body is due to report back its recommendations for the 2021-22 pay round to the government in May.

The Department of Health and Social Care has been contacted for a response.


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