The Government ‘can expect a backlash from a million NHS workers’ if it goes ahead with its suggested 1% pay rise in England, equivalent to an extra £3.50 a week, the RCN has warned.
The suggestion for the 2021/22 pay deal was met with outrage from health unions, healthcare workers and the general public after NHS staff gave ‘their absolute everything’ during the Covid-19 pandemic.
It was made in the Government’s evidence, published last night, to the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB), which advises the government on pay for NHS staff Agenda for Change contract. The PRB is expected to publish its own pay recommendations in May, before ministers make the final decision soon after.
The RCN Council held an emergency last night and unanimously voted to set up a £35m industrial action fund – believed to be the UK’s largest union strike fund. RCN Council chair Dave Dawes announced the meeting on Twitter.
RCN chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair called the proposed rise ‘pitiful and bitterly disappointing’. She repeated calls for nurses to receive a 12.5% pay boost, a wage ambition that a Tory MP called ‘one for the fairies’ earlier this week.
Dame Donna continued: ‘A pay award as poor as this would amount to only an extra £3.50 per week take-home pay for an experienced nurse. Nobody would think that is fair in the middle of a pandemic and it will do nothing to prevent the exodus from nursing.’
Unison head of health Sara Gorton said it was ‘no wonder the Chancellor had nothing to say about the NHS yesterday’, after his Spring Budget speech failed to mention funding for the NHS or social care.
She continued: ‘A 1% pay rise is the worst kind of insult the government could give health workers who’ve given their absolute everything over the past year. The public will be horrified. Staff will think it’s some kind of joke.’
Ms Gorton joined calls – also from the RCN – for ministers to rethink the ‘laughable suggestion’ and for the NHS PRB to offer a ‘more sensible and realistic recommendation’ in spring.
RCN GPN Forum Chair Ellen Nicholson said nurses are facing ‘crisis’ and are using food banks following ‘system wage deflation over the past ten years’, with take-home pay below what it was in 2010. Healthcare workers, celebrities and the general public also called the rise a ‘disgrace’.
But mental health minister Nadine Dorries told LBC this morning that the pay rise is ‘what we can afford in order to continue furlough’.
In its submission to the PRB, the health department said awarding NHS staff ‘anything higher’ than a 1% increase ‘would require re-prioritisation’ within the Budget.
It continued: ‘Covid-19 has placed a huge strain on both public and NHS finances. The economic outlook for 2021/22 remains uncertain and pay awards must be both fair and affordable.’
NHS staff have been excluded from a pay freeze for most public sector workers.