Unions and healthcare leaders are outraged by government plans to raise the pay of NHS staff by just 1%, ignoring inflation.
The Doctors and Dentists Remuneration Board (DDRB) called for NHS staff to be given a 1% rise to account for inflation on top of automatic increments given for job progression.
Instead, the government will ensure that all staff get a 1% pay rise next year, however staff who receive job progression increases will not get the 1% increase as well.
This change will affect close to 600,000 nurses and other staff working in the NHS.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that fully taking on the DDRB’s recommendations would be “unaffordable and would risk the quality of patient care”.
He said: “Our priority must be to ensure that the NHS can afford to employ the right number of frontline staff needed to ensure the safe, effective and compassionate care that patients have a right to expect.
“The DDRB proposals suggest a pay rise that would risk reductions in frontline staff that could lead to unsafe patient care. It is not possible to maintain appropriate numbers of frontline staff, give a general pay rise of 1% and pay for incremental progression.”
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said: “Nursing staff and patients alike will find it hard to believe the fatuous argument that the NHS has to make a choice between paying a fair wage to its hard working staff and providing safe staffing levels.
“What the NHS cannot afford to do is continue a policy of treating hard working and loyal staff with contempt, at a time when morale is at an all time low and trusts around the country struggle to retain and recruit enough nurses to maintain safe staffing levels.”
Unions are currently consulting with their members over strikes.
Rachael Maskell, Unite’s head of health said that 2,400 top NHS bosses are earning more than the Prime Minister, David Cameron, while nurses, health visitors and paramedics are “treated with contempt”.
She said: “[Hunt] is deliberately muddying the waters by trying to imply that the annual increment that staff receive, as they gain more skills to benefit patients throughout their careers, is part of the annual pay increase – it is not. It is despicable that Hunt has adopted such an underhand tactic.”
GMB, the union for NHS staff said the government are attacking not only living standards but also the agreed way pay is set in the NHS which makes a ballot for industrial action all the more likely.