Peers urge review of impact of pay restraint on NHS morale

Ministers should review pay policy for nurses and other NHS staff and the impact it has on workforce morale, peers have urged.
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Ministers should review pay policy for nurses and other NHS staff and the impact it has on workforce morale, peers have said.

A House of Lords Select Committee agreed there had been a prolonged period of pay restraint in healthcare. 

A new report from the House of Lords Select Committee on the long-term sustainability of the NHS acknowledged a 'prolonged period of pay restraint' faced by healthcare professionals.

Last week it was announced health workers, including nurses, midwives and doctors, would receive a 1% pay rise in the 2017-18 pay round, prompting anger from unions.

The committee called on the government to commission a formal independent review to examine pay policy with a particular regard to its impact on the morale and retention of health and care staff.

The authors wrote: 'We received evidence on the lengthy period of pay restraint experienced by health and care staff and the consequential impact of this pay restraint on morale.

Concern for future 

'This was a particular problem for those who were often at the lower end of the pay scale, such as nurses, other healthcare workers and social care workers.

'It was clearly a relevant factor in the low levels of morale and significant staff retention problems we heard about.'

The committee added: 'We recognise the necessity of public sector pay restraint when public expenditure is under considerable pressure. However, by the end of this parliament, pay will have been constrained for almost a decade.'

Peers also expressed their concern over an 'absence' of a long-term NHS workforce plan over the coming years.

Biggest threat

The report states a lack of strategy for the next 10-15 years presents 'the biggest internal threat to the sustainability of the NHS'.

The Committee also said 'too little attention' has been paid to training the existing workforce.

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: 'The report explicitly blames the government's short-termist pay cap for low morale in the NHS and the numbers being pushed towards leaving the nursing profession.

'If ministers want to keep the best nurses working in the NHS, they must fund it properly and end the pay cap.'

Need for planning 

Unite national officer for health Sarah Carpenter added: 'The committee homes in on the link between continued pay restraint and plummeting morale and workforce retention and, again, this is something that health secretary Jeremy Hunt might like to take note of, following last week's measly 1% pay rise for NHS staff.'

Health Education England chief execuitve Ian Cumming said: 'We welcome this comprehensive report and are particularly interested to see proposals for an enhanced future role for Health Education England that reflect a need for more long term, strategic workforce planning.

'We have started some work in this area already and will publish further work along these lines in our workforce plan at the end of this month.

'We accept, however, that much more needs to be done and look forward to examining the report and its 34 recommendations in detail over the coming days and weeks and working with partners to help support a better system to provide higher quality education and training for students and trainees and better quality, safer care for patients.'

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