The Labour Party will increase pay for NHS staff and reinstate the nursing bursary if elected in June, the party announced in a speech today (26 April).
In the party’s three-point election guarantee for NHS staff, it promised:
- Pay increased to a sustainable level that reflects the complexity of the work carried out
- Safe staffing levels put into law so that finances never take precedent over patient safety
- Fully funded education that prepares NHS staff to be the best in the world
After ‘seven years of neglect’ by the Conservative Government, Labour said it will make sure NHS staff are properly supported to provide the best possible quality of services for patients.
Strong economy needed
Labour has promised to lift the 1% pay cap on NHS workers, which it said is keeping wages below inflation and causing a health recruitment crisis. If elected, it would return to agreeing public sector pay through collective bargaining and the evidence of independent pay review bodies. Labour would also return to UK-wide pay rates for NHS staff.
Conservative MP and minister of state for health, Philip Dunne MP, said: ‘A strong NHS needs a strong economy. Only Theresa May and the Conservatives offer the strong and stable leadership we need to secure our growing economy and with it funding for the NHS and its dedicated staff.
‘We’ve protected and increased the NHS budget and got thousands more staff in hospitals. But all that’s at risk with Jeremy Corbyn’s nonsensical economic policies that would mean less money for the NHS. Just look at Wales, where Labour’s economic mismanagement means they had to cut funding.
‘There’s a real risk of Jeremy Corbyn getting into Government because the Scottish National Party and Liberal Democrats would do a deal to put him there. Only a vote for Theresa May and your local Conservative candidate can protect our economy and public services.’
‘Taken for granted’
Jon Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said at the Unison Health Conference in Liverpool today: ‘NHS staff have been taken for granted for too long by the Conservative Government.
‘Cuts to pay and training mean hard working staff are being forced from NHS professions and young people are being put off before they have even started. Now Brexit threatens the ability of health employers to recruit from overseas.
‘What is bad for NHS staff is bad for patients too. The collapse in patient standards since Theresa May became Prime Minister shouldn’t be seen as inevitable. Patients deserve better.
‘By giving the NHS the resources it needs Labour’s offer at this election is a modern, truly world class health service which offers patients and their families the best possible level of care.’
‘A political choice’
Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said: ‘For too long, nursing staff have been undervalued and underpaid.
‘The results can be seen in the spiralling number of vacant jobs, collapsing morale and services that are struggling to cope. A health service that works for patients must value its staff.’
Although the RCN has campaigned to scrap the 1% pay cap, nurses’ pay packets have been cut by 14% in real-terms and so ‘more must be done to help them catch up’, Davies said.
She noted the bursary scrap in England and the subsequent drop in nursing applications at university by almost a quarter this year.
‘Fully funded training would help nursing to continue to attract the best and brightest into the profession,’ Davies said.
‘It’s a political choice to increase investment in health and social care and we call on all political parties to go further and commit to the long-term funding that patients and services need,’ she added.
‘Safe staffing numbers’
Labour said it will introduce legislation requiring NHS trusts to consider patient safety when setting staffing levels in their hospitals.
And it will ask NICE to recommence work to support trusts to judge safety in different settings. This work was started in November 2013, but then dropped under the current Government in June 2015. Labour would reinforce the work carried out by NICE by giving it a new legal basis, it said.
Labour would also ask NICE to assess whether there are health settings which would benefit from legally enforced staffing ratios.
‘Fully funded education’
Labour said it will reinstate funding and other support for students of health related degrees to incentivise more young people to train to work in the NHS.
The party also guarenteed to commission evidence on the equality impact of the removal of funding under the Conservative Government from ‘degrees predominantly taken by older and female students’ and to review what other support can help mature students to undertake health degrees