Nurses could receive bigger pay rise as minister hints at U-turn on 1% offer

GMB: Piers Morgan slams Vicky Ford over NHS pay rise

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Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said he wants to see NHS staff “recognised in a way that’s appropriate” as pressure mounts on the Government to increase its proposal. It comes as the head of the NHS in England admitted they were in line for an increase of more than double that before the pandemic struck. Sir Simon Stevens told MPs that financial plans laid out in 2018 and 2019 allowed for a 2.1 percent increase in salaries, but admitted that “things have changed”.

Health bosses and union chiefs have reacted with anger over the government’s “pitiful” offer, which amounts to just £3.50 a week.

Amid a growing backlash Mr Buckland said the one percent plan was “the beginning of a process” that will end when recommendations on salary levels in the health service are issued in May.

And he hinted that the Government will be prepared to accept those suggestions, which will come after negotiations between independent NHS pay review bodies, unions, and ministers.

He said: “This is the beginning of a process. The recommendations have not yet been made.

“We’ve got to remember, of course, that in large other swathes of the public sector there will be a pay freeze save for the very lowest paid.

“I don’t think at the moment we’re at the end of this process, we need to see what the recommendations are.”

Mr Buckland said the state of public finances means there “might not be an outcome in these difficult circumstances that will result in pay rises that everybody would want to see”.

But he added: “I very much hope the work that’s been done by NHS workers will be recognised in a way that’s appropriate, bearing in mind the constraints we’re all under.”

Asked if the Government would accept a recommendation of a higher 2.1 percent rise, as being pushed by Labour, he replied: “We’ll have to see what the recommendations are.” 

He added: “What we’re trying to do is balance the need to deal with the Covid crisis and to spend a huge amount of money on making this country as safe as possible, but at the same time to remember the pressure on public finances is severe.

“It’s trying to get that balance right – that’s all we’re trying to do. It’s difficult and choices can sometimes lead to controversy but we need to not pre-judge what might happen in this negotiation.”

It’s the second hint at an impending U-turn in days, following on from similar remarks by Cabinet colleague Gavin Williamson.

On Sunday the Education Secretary said the one percent offer was “part of a process” and “no one wants to see a industrial action” in the NHS.

Of the expected 2.1 percent pay rise Sir Simon said: “Ultimately in a publicly funded, democratically accountable health service, the government of the day gets to decide what NHS pay should be.

“But you would expect the head of the health service to want to see properly rewarded NHS staff, particularly given everything that the service has been through – they have been through – over the course of the last year.”

Unions have threatened to ballot their NHS members over strike action if the offer isn’t improved.

And many senior Tories now believe a U-turn is inevitable once with top backbenchers Robert Halfon and Andrew Percy publicly backing a more generous offer.

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