Yorkshire Conservative MP calls on Government to 'make every effort to go further' on NHS pay
A Yorkshire Conservative has urged the Government to improve on its one per cent pay rise offer made to NHS staff.
Andrew Percy, who is MP for Brigg and Goole and has assisted at GP hubs where the coronavirus vaccine is being administered, said the most recent wave of the pandemic had been “particularly brutal on nurses, health care assistants, and especially this time around ambulance crews”.
And he urged junior health minister Helen Whately, who was answering an urgent question from Labour on the issue in the Commons, to speak to the Treasury to “look at what more we can do for our NHS staff”.
Mr Percy said this could include a one-off additional payment, or giving more “rest and recuperation time”, but he added: “We should do everything we can and make every effort to go further than what has so far been recommended.”
Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth thanked Ms Whately for appearing in the Commons but questioned why Health Secretary Matt Hancock had not come to answer for the Government.
“The Secretary of State has stood at that despatch box repeatedly waxing lyrical, describing NHS staff as heroes, saying they are the very best of us, and now he is cutting nurses’ pay,” Mr Ashworth said.
“Last summer, when asked by Andrew Marr if nurses deserved a real-terms pay rise, he replied ‘well of course, I want to see people properly rewarded, absolutely’ – and yet now he is cutting nurses’ pay.”
But Ms Whately suggested she had been sent to respond as it was International Women’s Day.
Ms Whately told the Commons: “I would actually say that I wonder why, this International Women’s Day, it is a shame that he hasn’t got a female colleague at the despatch box on his side this afternoon.”
Ms Whately continued: “In these difficult times, the Government has submitted its evidence to the pay review bodies and, as I said in my opening statement, those pay review bodies will report back to us.
“The pay review bodies will look at a wide range of evidence, including, for instance, evidence from the trade unions, the situation of inflation and also the wider situation with the economy and pay levels.
“They will report back and we will, of course, look at their recommendations very carefully.”
Thirsk and Malton Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake suggested a “German style social care premium” could help bring in more money for health and care and said: “On the basis that every one per cent increase will cost the taxpayer £750m, I didn't hear the shadow health secretary say how much he would increase pay by or indeed, which taxes he would increase to pay for it.”
Earlier, Downing Street declined to rule out a one-off bonus for NHS workers amid continued anger over the pay recommendation.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We have been clear that we think the one per cent pay rise is what is affordable.
“I’m not going to comment on speculation. We’ve set out what we think is affordable, it’s now for the pay review body to look at that and look at the other evidence and come forward with their recommendation.”
And the Prime Minister himself said nurses had told him that what would be helpful was more staff.
Asked about the row at a coronavirus briefing from No 10, Boris Johnson said: “One of the most important things that nurses told me they want to see is more nurses to help them on the wards would help them cope with the pandemic and everything else.
“And there are 10,000 more now this year than there were last year, that's a good thing.”
He said: “I understand, of course, that the whole sector has been under massive pressure and that's why we are investing colossally on top of the £140bn annually that we give to the NHS by an extra £62m.”
And he added recruitment had increased by 36 per cent and that helping to “boost” recruitment was “really crucial for the wellbeing of nurses”.
However in the Commons, Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield said the one per cent rise was a “kick in the teeth”.
He said: “[Ms Whately] justified it by reference to the pay freeze for other key workers. That was a decision of this Government, so shouldn't they recognise they've got it wrong on both counts, review the pay freeze and give NHS staff the pay rise they deserve?”
But the minister pointed to “the difficult times that we are living in, the many thousands of people who have sadly lost their jobs through Covid”.