Nadhim Zahawi, Conservative Party chair, has been accused of exaggerating the pay of newly qualified nurses in his media appearances, inflating the true figure by almost £4,000.
The Conservative minister has faced criticism on social media after claiming in interviews with the BBC and Sky News that the starting salary for a newly qualified nurse was £31,000, while the true basic rate of pay for a newly qualified nurse is only £27,055, according to fact-checking charity Full Fact.
Mr Zahawi said on BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg: ‘This year the public sector pay review bodies recommended £1,400, which would mean the starting salary of a nurse would hit about £31,000.’ However, fact-checking organisation Full Fact pointed out that this figure seems to be inflated by the inclusion of additional earnings.’
The figure of £31,000, which has also been used by health and social care secretary Steve Barclay, includes additional pay which may come from overtime, unsociable hours, and supplements for those in high cost areas such as London, the charity said.
But in fact, the annual pay scales published by NHS Employers show that a Band 5 nurse was only making £25,655 in 2021/22 which, Combined with the £1,400 pay rise, has now risen to £27,055.
Steve Nowottny, editor of Full Fact, said: ‘We’ve seen a number of claims about nurses’ pay emerge ahead of the planned strike.
‘Mr Zahawi’s comments have caused some confusion, given that the £31,000 he’s said represents a nurse’s ‘starting salary’ includes both basic pay and additional earnings like overtime, unsocial hours pay and supplements for those in high-cost areas.
He continued: ‘People will have different opinions about what counts as “starting salary”, and we’ve seen a number of definitions used – in fact, previously the government has used the phrase to refer to basic pay only.
‘Such confusion is unhelpful and risks misunderstanding. Politicians, and ministers, in particular, need to be precise about what they mean when talking about such important numbers, so that people aren’t misled about the facts.’
This comes shortly after the Department of Health and Social Care itself received criticism for circulating a graph which were deemed to be a ‘poor and misleading representation’ of nurses’ pay by Sir Robert Chote of the UK Statistics Authority.
The graph had been brought to the attention of the UKSA in a letter by Andrew Gwynne MP, shadow minister for public health, who claimed it was ‘deliberately misleading’.
Sir Robert concluded that the axis of the graphs ‘exaggerates the proportionate increase in pay over the period’.
Responding to criticism of the graph, the Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘All of the figures are accurate but we accept the data could have been presented more clearly. We are committed to using data accurately and transparently.’
When approached for comment the Cabinet Office, in which Mr Zahawi is a minister without portfolio, replied with a link to the following statement:‘Full-time basic pay for newly qualified nurses starting at the bottom of Band 5 has increased by £1,400, equivalent to nearly 5.5%, to £27,055 from £25,655 last year. This means a newly qualified nurse who works full-time might expect average earnings of over £31,000 a year plus typical overtime and unsocial hours payments.’