The pay cap may be lifted after all for ‘heroic’ nurses, according to comments from the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt.
A years-long policy of capping pay rises for nursing staff at 1% annually was expected to continue until 2020, but the Conservative minister appeared to make concessions while speaking at NHS Confed17 in Liverpool on 15 June.
Mr Hunt told his audience of NHS senior managers he had a ‘great deal of sympathy’ with nurses, who he believed do ‘an absolutely brilliant job’. Following announcements from the NHS across the UK that the cap would continue, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) decided in a ballot among its members to engage in a ‘summer of protest action’ in opposition.
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‘There is an enormous amount of goodwill, enormous amount of time given free of charge, because people care about their jobs and they see it not as a job, but as a vocation,’ Mr Hunt said.
‘I have had a very constructive letter from [RCN chief executive] Janet Davies. I will be meeting with her and will make sure the conversation is reflected back to the chancellor before we make that decision.’
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The Health Secretary, who will meet with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, currently Philip Hammond, to discuss public sector pay, also spoke about the ‘extraordinary work’ of nurses and other healthcare professionals during the terrorist attacks on London and Manchester since March this year.
Prime Minister Theresa May had previously attracted criticism for her comments during the Conservative’s general election campaign in May concerning nurses forced to use food banks to feed themselves and their families. She cited ‘complex reasons’ and the need for a stronger economy, which Labour opponents and the RCN showed disrespect to nurses.
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After the Conservatives failed to secure a parliamentary majority on 8 June, the RCN have called for reconsideration on the issue of nurses’ pay which has lead to an apparent softening from Mr Hunt.
RCN chief Janet Davies said: ‘Pay packets have been cut by £3,000 and England’s NHS is now more than 40,000 nurses short. The government must begin to recognise the impact on patients and nurses themselves. Nurses should not have to fund the NHS deficit from their own pocket. This summer, the Government has one last chance to scrap its pay cap.’