I believe that the passion, commitment, and specialist knowledge of our NHS staff is part of what makes our NHS so special. In particular, I recognise the sacrifice, commitment and dedication of our NHS workers over the past year. I believe it is important to honour this, but I know that pandemic has had real consequences on public finances which cannot be ignored.
I have been assured that what the Government has tried to do with its recommendation for a 1 per cent pay rise for NHS staff is to give NHS staff as much as it can at the present time. It is also worth seeing this in the broader context – all but the lowest paid workers across the public sector have had their pay frozen for 2021/22.
In addition, we should not forget that over one million NHS staff also continue to benefit from multi-year pay deals agreed with trade unions, including a pay rise of over 12 per cent for newly qualified nurses, with the average nurse pay now £34,000 per year, and that junior doctors’ pay has been increased by 8.2 per cent.
I know that the Independent Pay Review Bodies will make recommendations in late Spring when they will be considered by the Government. It is right that the Government does not pre-empt these recommendations.
I also welcome the investment that the Government has already made in the NHS workforce, including £513m in professional development and increased recruitment, £30m on staff mental health support including wellbeing hubs and occupational health support, and the new bursary programme giving at least £5,000 each year to new nursing, midwifery, and Allied Health professional students.