The RCN is calling on the new health and social care secretary Steve Barclay to award nurses with ‘an immediate and substantial pay rise’, in the wake of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s resignation.
Mr Johnson announced his resignation this afternoon (7 July) after more than 50 Conservative MPs had quit as government ministers or aides over the last two days, no longer confident of his leadership.
Responding to the news, RCN’s general secretary and chief executive, Pat Cullen, said: ‘A political vacuum now exists at a time when nursing staff providing care and treatment against all odds face unrelenting pressure and a workforce crisis.’
She warned ‘patient care and safety is being jeopardised and a cost-of-living disaster is forcing many of those same staff to turn to food banks opened by their employers in hospitals and other healthcare facilities’.
She said the ‘incredible hardship our members face is in no small part down to a decade of pay cuts,’ and urged the new health secretary to ‘rise above the mayhem’ and ‘indicate his support for nursing with an immediate and substantial pay rise, already three months overdue’.
The RCN is calling for Mr Barclay to implement a 5% above inflation pay rise for nursing staff, with the UK government expected to announce what pay rise NHS staff in England will be awarded for 2022/23 soon.
The Department of Health and Social Care identified an ‘affordable headline pay award of up to 3%’ in evidence submitted in February to the NHS Pay Review Body, which advises the government on pay for NHS staff on Agenda for Change contracts.
Responding to Mr Barclay’s appointment, Carol Popplestone, RCN chair of council, said his ‘imminent decision’ on NHS pay ‘will send the first and greatest signal on the relationship Mr Barclay wants with his health and care workforce’.
She continued: ‘We urge him to listen and then act. Our members face incredible hardship – struggling to pay the bills and going to food banks – and it is in no small part down to a decade of pay cuts by government.
‘This dire situation is driving people out of nursing and adding to the staffing crisis. His action in the next few days can begin to turn the tide for these people who give so much of themselves to their work and the nation’s health.’
Mr Barclay has most recently served as Number 10’s chief of staff – a new role that was created in light of the ‘partygate’ scandal – and as minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster since last year.
Mr Barclay has served as health minister before – from January to November 2018. But he is most notable for being a Johnson loyalist and a fervent supporter of the leave campaign.
He was also Brexit secretary from 2018 to 2020 and chief secretary to the Treasury from 2020 to 2021.
Commenting on his appointment, Mr Barclay said: ‘It is an honour to take up the position of health and social care secretary. Our NHS and social care staff have showed us time and again – throughout the pandemic and beyond – what it means to work with compassion and dedication to transform lives.
‘This government is investing more than ever before in our NHS and care services to beat the Covid backlogs, recruit 50,000 more nurses, reform social care and ensure patients across the country can access the care they need.’
Mr Johnson announced his resignation following the latest scandal in Number 10, which faced allegations of dishonesty regarding what Mr Johnson knew about prior misconduct allegations against MP Chris Pincher prior to appointing him deputy chief whip.
In his resignation speech, Mr Johnson said it had been an ‘immense privilege’ to serve in the ‘best job in the world,’ but admitted that ‘no one is remotely indispensable.’
‘In Westminster, the herd instinct is powerful and when the herd moves, it moves,’ he said, adding that he is ‘immensely proud of the achievements of this government,’ such as Brexit and the vaccine rollout.
‘I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world, but them’s the breaks,’ he said.