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‘Nurses’ inflation-busting pay demand would harm the wider NHS’

Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay brands nurses’ pay demand unrealistic as he sets out his winter agenda to NHS leaders
Health and social care secretary in England Steve Barclay sets out his winter agenda for NHS leaders

Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay brands nurses’ pay demand unrealistic as he sets out his winter agenda to NHS Providers conference

Nurses’ worries about pay and staffing pressure were not allayed when health and social care secretary Steve Barclay outlined his winter priorities to NHS leaders.

Not for the first time, Mr Barclay dismissed the RCN’s demand of a 5% above-inflation pay rise for NHS staff as he set out his agenda ahead of what looks likely to become the health service’s most challenging winter ever.

The minister told an NHS Providers conference on 16 November: ‘As in all sectors, pay is a central issue, particularly given the wider cost of living pressures. I am keen to work constructively

Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay brands nurses’ pay demand unrealistic as he sets out his winter agenda to NHS Providers conference

Health and social care secretary in England Steve Barclay sets out his winter agenda for NHS leaders
Steve Barclay addresses NHS Providers conference

Nurses’ worries about pay and staffing pressure were not allayed when health and social care secretary Steve Barclay outlined his winter priorities to NHS leaders.

Not for the first time, Mr Barclay dismissed the RCN’s demand of a 5% above-inflation pay rise for NHS staff as he set out his agenda ahead of what looks likely to become the health service’s most challenging winter ever.

The minister told an NHS Providers conference on 16 November: ‘As in all sectors, pay is a central issue, particularly given the wider cost of living pressures. I am keen to work constructively with trade union colleagues.

‘But I do not think it is realistic that increases should be three times the amount paid to those outside the public sector. And the £9 billion cost this would entail would impact other important areas, such as buildings and technology, which are also important to staff.

‘However, I am grateful for the discussions we had over the past few weeks and look forward to future discussions. I have made clear my door is open and we want to engage constructively.’

Tens of thousands of nurses are preparing to strike for the first time in NHS history over pay and safe staffing concerns. While staff in England and Wales have been offered a 4% pay increase, the RCN argues this would leave nurses worse off in real terms.

Elective and emergency care among priorities

Mr Barclay indicated the NHS would be getting more money in the chancellor’s Autumn Statement this week and announced a £500 million adult social care discharge fund to help free up acute beds and improve social care capacity.

Elective surgery, primary care access and urgent and emergency care were also among Mr Barclay’s priorities for the coming months. However, while he touched on the Conservatives’ manifesto pledge to recruit 50,000 more nurses by 2024, he did not go into detail about how he would address widespread nursing shortages. The Department of Health and Social Care has repeatedly insisted it is on track to meet the 50,000 nurses promise.

‘No magic bullet to ease nurse staffing pressures’

When asked if the NHS could expect a fully-funded, long-term workforce plan soon, Mr Barclay said there was no ‘magic bullet’ and cited international nurse recruitment as a way to address immediate pressures.

There are currently a record 47,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS in England and the Nursing and Midwifery Council recently revealed around 25,000 nurses had left the profession in the past year.


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