Rishi Sunak used Wednesday’s Budget to extend popular Covid support measures, such as the furlough scheme and stamp duty holiday.
But conspicuous by its absence was any mention of public sector pay rise, particularly for NHS staff, who have worked on the frontlines throughout the pandemic.
The Chancellor is understood to be waiting for the NHS Pay Review Body’s conclusions in May before making a decision on a possible salary increase, meaning nurses, junior doctors, paramedics, hospital porters and healthcare staff could be left without a decision for months.
Labour MP Yvette Cooper described the lack of mention of the NHS and its staff in the Budget as “shameful” and “shocking”.
“After the year we’ve had. After all they’ve done. After the heroes they’ve been. Given the support they deserve now. And how much we owe them,” she said.
NHS pay is operated in a banding system that was introduced in 2004.
A newly-qualified nurse starts in band five and will earn £24,907 a year, or slightly more in London. Most nurses work in band five, with band six and above being management positions, many of which require further qualifications.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has estimated that an average NHS nurse’s pay is £33,384.
The salary ranges at each additional banding level are as follows:
Some 1.3 million public sector workers will have their pay frozen next year, though NHS staff have been excluded from this.
The NHS Pay Review Body is due to recommend salary levels for health service staff by May, before ministers make a final decision.
In a submission to the independent panel, the Department of Health and Social Care has recommended NHS staff, including nurses, receive a one per cent pay rise next year.
RCN chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair called the proposed increase “pitiful”, and is calling for a 12.5 per cent increase.
She told BBC News: “Nursing staff would feel they are being punished and made to pay for the cost of the pandemic. It is a political decision to underfund and undervalue nursing staff.”
Professor Kailash Chand, a former deputy chairman of the British Medical Association, said: “The NHS family will have to do with clapping and badges. The Chancellor is not the NHS’s friend.”
And Rehana Azam, national officer of the GMB trade union, said: “This budget is an insult to the millions of NHS, schools, care and local government workers who have seen us through this crisis.”
You can’t rebuild a country by cutting nurses’ pay.
Give our Covid heroes a pay rise. pic.twitter.com/sdBDwg1fwh
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer used Twitter to call for a pay rise for nurses on Thursday.
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