Prime minister claims pay offer for nurses is 'very strong' – Nursing Times

‘Nurses have made their voice heard loud and clear’
26 October, 2022 By
Rishi Sunak has described the recent pay increase for NHS staff as “very strong” during his first appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions.
Mr Sunak also said the Conservative Party “will always support our hardworking nurses”, at the session which took place in parliament today.
Richard Burgon, Labour MP for Leeds East, stood up and told Mr Sunak that a nurse would have to work over 20,000 years to obtain “the vast wealth” which is possessed by the prime minister.
He added: “The prime minister knows only too well that the super rich could easily afford to pay more in taxes, so rather than announce a new wave of cuts and austerity, wouldn’t it be fairer for the prime minister to introduce wealth taxes on the very richest in our society?”
In response, Mr Sunak said: “We will always support our hardworking nurses and that’s why as chancellor we reintroduced the nurse’s bursary and provided more training and introduced, actually, very strong pay increases.”
He added that as the government approaches the “difficult decisions” that confront us, they will approach them in a way that is “fair and compassionate”.
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This comes at the same time that unions across the UK are balloting NHS nurses on whether they will take industrial action over pay.
Unions, including the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and Unison, are urging their members around the UK to vote for strike action over the government’s below-inflation pay awards for 2022-23.
In England and Wales, most nurses on Agenda for Change contracts were handed a £1,400 pay rise, in line with the recommendations of the NHS Pay Review Body, this summer.
Nurses in Northern Ireland continue to wait for a formal announcement on pay because of budget uncertainties. Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has in recent days put forward a new offer which would see NHS staff given a £2,205 uplift – equal to an 8.45% increase for most nurses.
During the session, Conservative MP for Faversham and Mid Kent, Helen Whately, also pressed the new prime minister on the state of the NHS.
She noted the recent State of Care report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) which “showed a health system in gridlock”.
The report, published last week, found that the health and social care system in England was unable to offer care to people who need it, largely due to the ongoing workforce crisis.
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Ms Whately asked Mr Sunak if he and his health secretary, Steve Barclay, would make unblocking the NHS a priority.
Responding, Mr Sunak said: “She’s absolutely right about the challenge that confronts us, it is why we have put billions of pounds into busting the backlogs and the elective recovery fund and in delivering funding and staffing to do that.
“But I look forward to working with her to deliver what we said in our manifesto and that is a far stronger NHS.”
Responding to the comments, RCN general secretary and chief executive, Pat Cullen, said: “Falsely claiming that nurses have had a very strong pay rise will only add to the determination of our members to vote for strike action.
“The reality is the last pay deal added to a decade of real-terms pay cuts and left many nurses struggling to pay for food and fuel. “Thousands have already left nursing unable to afford to stay in the profession, adding to the tens of thousands of nursing vacancies in health and care across the UK.
“The prime minister must cut down on the rhetoric and face up to the fact the nursing workforce and the NHS is in crisis and in dire need of substantial investment.”
Meanwhile Unison deputy head of health, Helga Pile, said: “This year’s NHS pay award was inadequate by any measure. A wage ​rise that falls way short of ​the cost of living ​can only be described as a pay cut.
“If Rishi Sunak is serious about strengthening the NHS, he must start with a second wage ​increase for staff. Otherwise more people will leave, the workforce crisis will deepen and patient care worsen.
“Claiming credit for reintroducing the bursary rings hollow when it was a previous Conservative government that scrapped it. The NHS needs proper investment in training and pay to protect its ​very future.”
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The pay offer is indeed “very strong,” in the sense that it stinks very strongly of contempt and ungratefulness for our sacrifices over the past two years and our loss of real terms earning since 2008.
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