After seven years of wage austerity for nurses, the Government is to scrap the NHS pay cap.
Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health, has just confirmed that the cap has been abandoned after months of intense pressure on the government to improve the pay of NHS staff.
Mr Hunt, however, refused to say whether future pay awards will match or exceed inflation, which is now stands at around 3%.
Jon Skewes, from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said: ‘The RCM very much welcomes today's announcement by the Secretary of State. However, this cannot be another empty promise by Jeremy Hunt. The time is now to concede NHS Unions’ pay claim on behalf of midwives and all NHS workers and fund it properly.’
Recently, a number of unions demanded that the government not only ‘scrap the cap’, but also award nurses and midwives an £800 pay claim to compensate them for years of declining wages in real terms.
Although the Health Secretary’s comments, made in the House of Commons to the shock of many MPs, are good news for the health sector, he also gave no commitment to increase NHS funding along side removing the cap. Last month when a similar pay cap for police and prison officers was lifted, there was not an accompanying increase in funding that meant that any increases in payment for staff would have to come out of the organisation’s own resources.
According to Mr Skewes: ‘The Government must commit to fully funding a real terms pay increase for Midwives and NHS staff. Anything less will fundamentally damage employment relations in the NHS and will add to the already rock-bottom NHS morale. It will further push midwives out of the profession at a time when we already have a shortage of midwives that is getting worse.’
Previously, the Prime Minister, Theresa May, had signaled that there would be some ‘flexibility’ in terms of the pay given to NHS at the new budget in October. Mr Hunt has taken this further in confirming an end to the cap but it remains to be seen whether this will translate into increased incomes in real terms.