The 2017 budget was presented today by the Chancellor Phillip Hammond in House of Commons. It sets out the governments financial aims for the next fiscal year and has huge implication for the NHS and its staff.
The Chancellor has committed to ending the 7-year-long pay cap for public sector workers, has pledged an immediate cash injection of £350 million for the NHS this winter and has promised the expected £10 billion of capital investment over the course of this parliament.
Responding to the news, Janet Davies, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said: ‘The Chancellor has clearly listened to the tens of thousands of nursing staff who’ve been campaigning for fair pay, and he was right to address their concerns. Promising the NHS additional money for nursing pay is welcome but Philip Hammond must make it a meaningful pay rise.
‘The NHS has been running on the goodwill of its staff for too long, and with more talk of reform and productivity, Hammond runs the risk of insulting nurses who regularly stay at work unpaid after 12-hour shifts. Their goodwill will not last indefinitely.’
Although the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, had already committed to lifting the pay cap, fears remained that any pay rise would have to be funded through front-line budgets and existing NHS departmental budgets.
Today, Mr. Hammond said that such increases in pay would not need to be diverted from such services, although he made no commitment to allocate funds with which the pay increase would be paid for.
‘Nursing pay has fallen further and further below the cost of living for the last seven years, with a gap now worth £3,000 a year. In the months to come, the Government must allow the NHS Pay Review Body to be genuinely independent of government for the first time in years and give it the freedom to recommend a meaningful pay rise,’ added Janet Davies.
The amount of total extra funding for the NHS over the course of this parliament will be £2.8 billion, a great deal less than the £4 billion demanded by Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England.
Since 2010, the health budget as a whole has grown by just over 1% on a yearly average (after inflation). This contrasts with the traditionally received 4% from past governments.
Hammond argued that the NHS was one of the UK’s ‘greatest institutions’ and that the conservatives ‘will always back it’.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, said: ‘the Health Secretary said the pay cap is over, but where is the money to fund the pay rise? The Chancellor has not been clear today. Not for NHS workers […]
‘The NHS Chief Executive says the budget for the NHS next year falls well short of what is currently needed. And from what the chancellor has said today, it is still well short of what is needed.’