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Junior minister is fielded to face urgent question over nurses’ pay

Health secretary Hancock sends junior colleague to face Opposition in Commons
social care minister Helen Whately answered question in Commons about nurses

Social care minister Helen Whately defends governments position on NHS pay in Commons, in health secretarys absence

A junior minister faced pressure in the Commons over the the governments pitiful suggestion of a 1% pay rise for nurses and other NHS staff.

The recommendation to the independent NHS Pay Review Body for the 2021-22 Agenda for Change pay round has been met with widespread criticism from health unions and opposition parties.

Health secretary Matt Hancock absent for Commons question

But health and social care secretary Matt Hancock did not attend parliament on Monday to answer an urgent question on the issue.

Social care minister Helen Whately defends government’s position on NHS pay in Commons, in health secretary’s absence

social care minister Helen Whately answered question in Commons about nurses
Social care minister Helen Whately Picture: BBC

A junior minister faced pressure in the Commons over the the government’s ‘pitiful’ suggestion of a 1% pay rise for nurses and other NHS staff.

The recommendation to the independent NHS Pay Review Body for the 2021-22 Agenda for Change pay round has been met with widespread criticism from health unions and opposition parties.

Health secretary Matt Hancock absent for Commons question

But health and social care secretary Matt Hancock did not attend parliament on Monday to answer an urgent question on the issue.

Instead, it fell to junior health minister Helen Whately to respond to the question tabled by Labour, prompting criticism from shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth.

‘Why isn’t the secretary of state here to defend a budget that puts up tax for hardworking families and cuts pay for hardworking nurses?,’ Mr Ashworth asked.

‘The secretary of state has stood at that despatch box repeatedly waxing lyrical, describing NHS staff as heroes, saying they are the very best of us, and now he is cutting nurses’ pay.’

Ms Whately said she sent to respond as it was International Women's Day.

Affordability key in difficult economic times – government

In its evidence to the pay review body, the government said pay awards must be affordable, citing an uncertain economic outlook caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ms Whately said the government had submitted its suggestion in ‘difficult times’.

‘The pay review bodies will look at a wide range of evidence, including, for instance, evidence from the trade unions, the situation of inflation and the wider situation with the economy and pay levels.’

The RCN has set up a £35 million strike fund in response to the government’s pay suggestion.

Nurses tell me it’s more staff they really want to see, says PM

Prime minister Boris Johnson said it was recruitment that was ‘really crucial’ for nurse well-being when asked about the 1% recommendation.

‘One of the most important things nurses tell me they want to see is more nurses to help them on the wards, to help them cope with the pandemic and everything else,’ Mr Johnson told a Downing Street press conference on Monday.

He claimed that nurses had had a 12.8% pay increase in the previous pay round. This figure only applies to the most junior nurses and is untrue if applied to the NHS nurse workforce as a whole.

RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair accused Mr Johnson of sounding ‘increasingly out of touch with the impact of his own proposal’.

‘Today’s comments will appear blasé to nursing staff who have been told they’re worth only an extra £3.50 after a decade of wage losses in the middle of a pandemic,’ she said.



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