Today I spoke during a Westminster Hall debate on NHS Pay.
NHS workers don’t just need a pay rise because they’ve worked so hard the last year. They need a pay rise because they’ve had repeated real-terms pay cuts for the last 10 years.
The pandemic has shone a light on the fact that for more than decade we’ve failed to value the work that people in the NHS have been doing.
That’s had consequences. We all read the stories about empty Nightingale hospitals. Some of those hospitals were never used – all because we didn’t have the workers to staff them. Successive pay freezes have had serious consequences on our ability to recruit to the NHS.
For example, pay rates for nurses in the UK are extremely uncompetitive internationally.
As a member of the Public Accounts Committee, I’ve heard evidence that says Australian nurses are paid double what they are in the UK, and in the US it’s a third more – experts have even warned of a brain drain abroad.
That’s disgraceful when the cost of giving our NHS workers a pay rise is so low. Based on the Treasury’s own figures, London Economics calculate that the net cost of the RCN’s proposal of a 12.5% pay rise is only £0.82 billion.
But instead of investing in staff, the Government’s offer of 1% is only enough to buy NHS workers an extra cup of coffee a week. That’s not valuing the work they do, and it doesn’t make up for the decade of pay stagnation. No wonder there are tens of thousands of nursing vacancies.
Instead of investing billions into underwriting profits for private companies, Ministers should be investing in our NHS and the workers who keep it running. The pandemic has shown us what happens when we don’t.
You can watch my full speech here: