England will not join the other UK nations in offering a one-time ‘thank you’ bonus to health and social care staff, the Government has confirmed.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) responded to a petition with over 14,000 signatures requesting that every NHS and social care worker in England receive £500 for their work during the Covid-19 pandemic.
It confirmed that it is not ‘currently planning to pay £500 bonuses’, meaning England is the only UK country not to have issued a financial reward to healthcare staff.
The DHSC cited a ‘huge strain on public finances’ during the Covid-19 pandemic and argued it is already ‘acknowledging the extraordinary service of NHS staff’ by proposing a 1% pay rise amid a public sector pay freeze, although nurses have branded the suggestion a ‘joke’.
It wrote: ‘We believe [this pay rise] balances the challenging fiscal and economic context and the need to acknowledge that NHS staff have gone the extra mile. We have submitted our written evidence to the independent pay review bodies and have asked them to report in the spring.’
Nurses will have to wait until May to know the final decision on pay, after the NHS Pay Review Body publishes its own pay recommendations.
The DHSC also argued against the £500 bonus for social care in England: ‘The vast majority of [social care workers] are employed by private sector providers who ultimately set their pay and remuneration, independent of central government.’
The department said it was providing £1.4 billion through its infection control fund to adult social care providers to help reduce Covid-19 transmission – although that funding is expected to end in June – and to boost retention and recruitment through the NHS People Plan published last year for 2020/21.
But RCN acting general secretary Pat Cullen said: ‘Yet again the government has shown that, behind the rhetoric, they truly do not value our hard-working nursing staff. Our nurses deserve a significant pay rise and they shouldn’t be kept waiting. Ministers must end the delay and rethink their 1% plan.’
The DHSC response comes after Wales announced it will pay £735 to healthcare staff in May this year. Scotland and Northern Ireland also offered a £500 to health and care staff, which Scottish staff received in February and Northern Irish staff will receive in the new financial year.
Last month, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock claimed the Government’s suggested 1% pay rise for NHS staff is a real-terms increase, even though it is lower than official inflation forecasts.
NHS staff in Scotland have been offered a 4% pay rise, which the RCN and GMB Scotland advised its members to reject while Unison recommended its members accept.