COVID-19: MPs say nurses deserve pay rises, not just hand claps and medals

Health minister replies that ‘recruitment and retention is not just about pay’

 Parliament TV
Health minister Helen Whately defended the Conservatives’ record. Picture: Parliament TV

Nurses deserve pay rises – not medals – MPs have argued during a House of Commons debate.

The debate was the result of a petition signed by 162,632 people for the government to increase pay for NHS healthcare workers and recognise their work amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A hand clap or a medal ‘doesn't cut it’

Supporting the petition, Labour MP for Pontypridd, Wales, Alex Davies-Jones said: ‘The coronavirus pandemic provided a unique opportunity to try and show our thanks and appreciation.

‘Call me old fashioned but I’m not sure a hand clap or a medal quite cuts it.’

Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, Scotland, Jamie Stone agreed, arguing that awards must be backed up by real benefits.

‘The notion of an award, a gong, a medal, a ribbon with something on the end of it, without a whole-scale review of paying conditions, is just not on,’ he said.

Conservative MP for Gedling Tom Randall, while expressing his support for medals and monuments to health and social care workers, also called for the government to look at a pay increase for health and social care staff as soon as possible.

Debate is ‘the beginning of the conversation’

Catherine McKinnell
Catherine McKinnell was disappointed
with Ms Whately's response
Picture: Parliament TV

In response to the debate, health minister Helen Whately said ‘to increase a number of doctors and nurses in the NHS… recruitment and retention is not just about pay but also experience’.

Ms Whately defended the Conservative's record on nurse pay and recruitment, citing the pay increase nurses received in 2018, an increase in nursing numbers in 2019, and a £5,000 grant for nursing students who are starting university in September 2020.

The debate closed with Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Catherine McKinnell saying she was disappointed with Ms Whately’s response but added ‘this is the beginning of the conversation’ on pay rises for health and social care staff. 

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