Hunt: NHS pay cap to be lifted

11 Oct 17

The NHS pay cap - which has seen pay increases restricted to 1% a year - has been scrapped, according to Jeremy Hunt.

In a Commons debate yesterday the health secretary told MPs the “good news” that the government was changing course on the policy after seven years of austerity.

When questioned by Labour MP Marsha De Cordova, about staffing levels in the NHS and the link with the pay cap to poor recruitment and retention rates for staff, Hunt replied: “I can give her some good news: the pay cap has been scrapped.”

During the debate the cabinet minister said the years of the pay restraint had been necessary and allowed for 11,300 more doctors in the NHS and 11,300 more nurses to be recruited onto wards.

But he conceded “it was not sustainable” to carry on with the 1% rise going forward. 

Although, he did not say how much pay would rise by he explained it was dependent on how much funding the Treasury decided to hand over for wage increases. 

When questioned how the government would cover the cost he said: “That is something I can’t answer right now because the latitude that the chancellor has given me in terms of negotiating future pay rises is partly linked to productivity improvements that we will negotiate at the same time.”

He stated the government has more “leeway” to have more flexible negotiations on pay next year, a reference to statements made by the prime minister suggesting that pay review bodies will be able to suggest pay increases higher than 1%.

Representatives from the unions were skeptical of Hunt’s comments. Kevin Brandstatter, GMB national officer, said: “If there is no new money then it's a con trick to claim that the pay cap has ended.

“Without new funding 'productivity improvements' just looks like code for cuts to jobs and services.”

Royal College of Nursing, chief executive, Janet Davies said: “The cap held pay below inflation and gave nurses year-on-year pay cuts. With a staffing crisis building, the government is right to lift it.”

She added: “The next pay offer must not come in below inflation and ministers cannot ask the NHS to make other cuts to pay for it – services must be given extra funding to cover the cost.”

A Department of Health source told Public Finance that an announcement was likely be made in the Budget next month and for the pay rises to take effect in March next year. 

Yesterday's suggestion that the cap would be lifted for NHS workers follows an announcement by the government in September that prison and police officers would get a raise above the 1% cap.

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