Jeremy Hunt unveils pay rises for NHS staff in 'something for something deal'
Jeremy Hunt has confirmed plans to end the pay cap for NHS staff in a deal worth £4.2bn.
The Health Secretary said the move would lift the earnings of the lowest paid in the sector, while bringing "profound changes in productivity in exchange".
Mr Hunt said the increases reflected public appreciation for the continued hard work of NHS staff in the wake of one of the hardest winters in living memory.
Announcing the deal to the Commons, he added that a pay bump for lower paid staff would help boost recruitment in a period when the system was struggling to deal with an increasingly ageing population.
As well as scrapping the pay freeze, the new measures will focus on staff's health and well-being to try and reduce sickness absence in the NHS which currently stands at a third higher than the public sector average.
Mr Hunt says that reducing absence rates by just 1% would save the health service around £280m.
As part of the new structures automatic incremental pay increases will be scrapped in exchange for larger pay rises linked with the attainment of professional milestones.
"Pay rises range from 6.5% to 29% over three years with much higher rises targeted at those on the lowest and starting rates of pay," he told MPs.
"As part of this deal the lower starting salary in the NHS will increase by over £2,500 from £15,504 to £18,040 in 2021. A newly qualified nurse will receive starting pay 12.6% higher, that’s nearly £3000 higher in 2020/21 than this year," he said.
Changes in working patterns to improve work-life balance for NHS staff are also included in the raft of new measures.
"It makes many other changes that NHS staff have been asking for such as shared parental leave, and the ability to buy and sell back annual leave so that they can better manage their work and family lives, work flexibly, and balance caring commitments," Mr Hunt revealed.
Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth said that the pay rise had "vindicated" Labour's previous calls to scrap the pay freeze.
He said: "When a nurse pleaded with the Prime Minister for a pay rise on national television, she was told there was no magic money tree. So, can he tell us how this pay rise will be paid for? Has the Prime Minister’s horticultural skills grown said magic money tree?
He further pressed the Health Secretary on when trusts will receive the allocations and for a guarantee that it would not be funded through cuts to other services.
Mr Hunt fired back blaming Labour for "a catastrophic loss of control of public finances" which had led to the need for austerity measures.