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NHS pay

Volume 702: debated on Monday 1 November 2021

The petition of residents of the United Kingdom,

Declares that throughout the pandemic, thousands of NHS workers have been working around the clock, putting their lives at risk to protect the public; notes that the average nurse in the UK has lost 20% of their income the last 10 years and that it is not surprising that there are 100,000 vacancies within the NHS currently; declares that many NHS workers are using food banks to get by; notes that earlier this year, the Government announced a pay rise for public service workers “in recognition of their efforts in tackling Covid-19” but many NHS staff including nurses, porters and cleaners were not included; declares that the wellbeing of NHS staff is more important than ever due to the most recent wave of Covid-19 and with morale at an all time low amongst staff; notes that a recent survey showed that 36% of nurses were considering leaving the profession altogether.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to liaise with the NHS Pay Review Body to urgently review the pay of Agenda For Change staff and take into consideration the 10 years of pay caps/freezes while acknowledging their extraordinary efforts throughout the pandemic. The petitioners also urge the House of Commons to urge the Government to reallocate funds to enable a 15% pay rise for NHS workers.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Jon Trickett, Official Report, 22 July 2021; Vol. 699, c. 1240.]


Observations from The Minister for Health (Edward Argar):

The Government hugely value and appreciate all our hard-working NHS staff. We are committed to ensuring that healthcare workers feel supported and safe to continue the fight against covid-19.

At the 2020 spending review, the Chancellor announced that in order to protect jobs, pay rises in the public sector would be paused, with the exception of NHS staff within the remits of the two NHS pay review bodies (NHSPRB and DDRB), and those with full-time equivalent salaries of less than £24,000.

The Government therefore looked to the independent pay review bodies for a pay recommendation for those staff not already in multi-year pay and contract reform deals, and in July 2021, confirmed that it was accepting the two review bodies' recommendations in full.

This means that once implemented, all NHS staff within the two review bodies' remit groups for this year will receive a 3% pay uplift, backdated to April 2021.

This pay increase includes eligible Agenda for Change staff such as nurses, paramedics and many healthcare assistants and porters, and will see the starting pay for a newly qualified nurse increase by over £740.

It is worth noting that the independent pay review bodies are made up of industry experts and their recommendations are based on a comprehensive assessment of evidence from a range of key stakeholders, including NHS system partners and trade unions. They make a number of considerations when formulating their recommendations, including many of the points raised by the petitioners such as recruitment and retention, the cost of living, inflation, the fiscal and economic context, and affordability and value for the taxpayer.

Over the past three years, Agenda for Change staff including nurses and many porters and cleaners have also benefited from a multi-year pay and contract reform deal, which saw the starting salary for a newly qualified nurse increase by 12% and the lowest starting salary in the NHS increase by over 16%.

The range of benefits available to NHS staff exceeds that which is available in many other sectors, and the value of the total reward package has been increasing in recent years. Total reward is not just about pay and includes access to the NHS pension scheme, which is one of the best available, alongside a generous annual leave allowance and many additional benefits, such as support for learning and development.

I would also like to highlight that this year we have seen record numbers of nurses and doctors working in the NHS, with the total number of NHS staff increasing to almost 1.2 million. According to the most recent data, there were over 2,600 more doctors and over 8,600 more nurses in the NHS in May 2021, than in May last year.

The Government recognise that pressures on the workforce throughout the pandemic have been extremely high and at an early stage of the pandemic, prioritised the need for enhanced mental health and wellbeing support.

NHS England and Improvement has invested £37 million in mental health hubs in 2021-22, building on the £15 million which was invested to establish these last year. The 40-system wide mental health hubs are being rolled out nationally, providing an end-to-end pathway that supports staff mental health needs from early identification through to clinical intervention. The hubs will offer proactive outreach and engagement with at-risk groups, contacting individuals to offer rapid clinical assessment and support should they need it. Care co-ordination and supported onward referral will then allow staff to receive rapid access to mental health treatment.

The NHS people plan, published in July 2020, also sets out a range of actions to transform people's day to day experience of working in the NHS, focusing on the things that matter to staff, including support for their wellbeing, improving flexible working opportunities and building a supportive and inclusive workplace culture. This is an important step forward in helping the NHS to recruit and retain more staff.