NHS pay rise may have to come from existing budget, says minister | NHS
A game-changing pay rise offer for nurses and paramedics may have to be funded within the current NHS budget, a senior cabinet minister has admitted.
Paying the bill – estimated at around £1.5billion – “will not be easy”, according to Oliver Dowden, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
He said it proved “difficult” to come up with the money, days after unions and ministers struck a deal to stop a wave of historic health service strikes in England.
Members of six unions – including the Royal College of Nursing – will be elected on the offer of a one-off 2% pay rise and 4% Covid recovery bonus for the current year, then a permanent salary increase of 5% from April.
The lowest paid NHS staff on ‘agenda for change’ contracts would get the biggest boost, with the minimum wage in the health service being raised to £11.45 an hour. But uncertainty remains as to how the move will be paid for.
The previous wage settlement was estimated at around 3.5%.
Ben Zaranko, an economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said: “A little over three weeks ago the Ministry of Health and Social Care claimed that wage increases of more than 3.5% were unaffordable. . A pay offer of 5% rather than 3.5% would add around £1.5billion to the NHS wage bill.
Dowden, who has played a key role in coordinating the government’s response to the strikes, told Sky News: “Finding this money is not easy. But we think that in this context of making sure we reward nurses properly and avoid disruption, we can find the money to do it, but it won’t be easy.
He suggested the money could come from the £160billion NHS budget or from “wider government spending”.
“Given the strain on health services around the world, we are not going to pull services from the front line,” Dowden told the Sophy Ridge show on Sunday.
“I don’t deny for a minute your argument that it’s hard to find that money. That’s why the government held out for so long in these negotiations, because there weren’t huge sums of money to turn to.
“But I’m confident we can find it, either in the NHS budget or in wider public spending.”
Talks with teachers over their pay dispute and strikes are ongoing while initial contact has been made with junior doctors, but no formal negotiations have yet begun, Dowden added.
A wave of new industrial action is still looming on other fronts.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, said its members had “no choice” but to stage long strikes as many were living in “working poverty”.
He said 40,000 civil servants felt compelled to use food banks, 45,000 claimed in-service benefits and 49,000 Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and HMRC workers were paid the national minimum wage.
“It’s obscene,” Serwotka told Sky. “We have been trying for months to get the government to commit. It’s great news that they’re talking to health unions and education unions, but why aren’t they talking to their own workforce?
“Rishi Sunak applauded his staff during the pandemic, he praised us for putting the furlough program in place, for delivering three million Universal Credit applications.
“Many people have died in public service who have worked to keep our borders secure and provide frontline services, but a 2% pay rise is less than anywhere in the economy and they won’t. won’t even negotiate with us.
“I think most of your viewers would find that quite amazing and that’s why people need to take escalating strike action because they have no choice if they want to lift themselves out of working poverty. “