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By Policy@Manchester

NHS Boss Confirms Nurses Were Meant To Get More Than Double Government’s 1% Pay Rise Offer

Sir Simon Steven confirmed the NHS had been working under the assumption the government would stick to its plan t give staff a 2.1% pay rise this year (Parliamentlive.TV)

4 min read

The head of the NHS has confirmed nurses were supposed to get a higher pay rise than the one the government is now offering.

Sir Simon Stevens also said more money will be needed to pay for Covid-related costs, and called on Rishi Sunak to stump up further funding than was announced in last week’s Budget.

“There is obviously an urgent need now to give that funding certainty to hospitals and to local frontline services,” he said, appearing in front of MPs this morning.

On pay he said “the working assumption” was nurses and other healthcare professional were due to receive a salary increase of 2.1%, the figure the government legislated for.

But last week they recommended to the NHS pay review board they now only receive a 1% increase, sparking criticism for failing to reward those who have been on the frontline of the Covid pandemic.

Speaking to the health select committee Stevens said: “At the time we published the long term plan in 2019 we laid out the underpinning financial assumptions.

“Obviously that was approaching two years ago, so things have changed, but at the time the working assumption was that there would be available 2.1% for the costs of the Agenda for Change pay group in 2021-22.”

Ministers have defended the 1% offer as the “most we can afford” due to the economic impact of Covid-19, and have highlighted that more than the pay of a million other public sector workers is being frozen, but the nursing union is threatening to strike over the issue.

The NHS England chief executive said frontline staff being properly rewarded is "entirely right”, and asked by Labour’s Barbara Keeley if they deserved a one-off bonus he responded: "That needs to be seen in the context of the overall judgments that the government will make on NHS pay in the round.

"And I agree with you that coming out of the past year and everything that NHS staff have been through, proper recognition for that is entirely right.

"And that goes with the grain of what the public want to see, none of which is to ignore the broader economic context facing the country.”

He added: "As the head of the NHS, I'm wanting to make sure that staff get proper reward and not only support through that mechanism, but also fundamentally what staff want to see are a broader range of measures including further increases in the workforce to deal with some of the intense workforce pressures."

Stevens also confirmed the NHS had not been given any indication of what further funding will be made available to deal with the impact of coronavirus beyond the next year.

Committee chair Jeremy Hunt highlighted analysis by the Office for Budget Responsibility of the Budget, which said the Chancellor had not set aside spending to cover additional costs caused by the pandemic beyond existing announcements.

The NHS boss said extra money was allocated in the autumn spending review, but “given that the majority of Covid hospitalised patients that we've been looking after have actually been admitted since that November spending review we've obviously had an incredibly tough. December January February across the health service”.

He added: “There are going to be continuing Covid-related needs and costs spilling into the new financial year. 

“And so the expectation is that the NHS will receive additional funding to cover those unavoidable Covid costs, certainly into the first half of the year, which I think by the way is the approach that the Chancellor has already set out for test and trace where they have been allocated additional funding for next year.

"And also for the broader support package across the economy, the furlough scheme for example.”

In response Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said: “The head of the NHS has confirmed what we already knew. 

“The Conservatives have broken their promise to the NHS and are cutting nurses’ pay.”

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