Labour promises to raise NHS pay

26 Apr 17

Labour has announced that it would give NHS staff a pay rise if the party won the general election.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said NHS staff had been "ignored, insulted, undervalued, overworked and underpaid" by the Conservative government.

Speaking today on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he said: "Enough is enough. What is bad for NHS staff is bad for patients too. Short staffing means reduced services and a threat to patient safety.

"Labour's new guarantees for NHS staff will help keep services running at the standards which England's patients expect."

He promised Labour would scrap the 1% pay cap in place for all NHS staff, it would reverse the end to bursaries and introduction of tuition fees planned for August for student nurses and midwives.

He also said there would be tougher rules on safe staffing levels in the NHS. Health Minister Philip Dunne said: “Only Theresa May and the Conservatives offer the strong and stable leadership we need to secure our growing economy and with it, funding for the NHS and its dedicated staff.”

Candace Imison, director of policy at the Nuffield Trust health think-tank, said the pledges “potentially come with significant price tags for which Labour will have to commit extra funding, or else the NHS simply won’t be able to afford the staff it already has”.

Although, she added: “The seven years of pay restraint endured by NHS staff have led to nurses seeing a 14% real terms reduction in their wages since 2010, and we know that applications for nursing courses from mature students, who have valuable life skills to offer the health service, have fallen since bursaries for nursing courses were abolished. 

Yesterday the King’s Fund think-tank outlined five key tests on health and social care, which it says must be met by the political parties fighting in the general election.

Chris Ham, King’s Fund chief executive, said the parties should address issues such as; sustainable funding, improving how care is provided, giving priority to population health, working with communities and supporting the NHS social care workforce.

“Our five tests offer a framework for assessing the credibility of the parties’ commitments on health and social care,” he said.

“They also highlight the importance of choices the next government makes on tax and public spending, and its willingness to lead a grown-up debate about the balance between public and private responsibilities,” he said.

Ham acknowledged it would be challenging to do this “at a time when the public finances are under pressure and Brexit creates uncertainty about the economy”.  

The Department of Health’s budget will increase by around £4.5bn between 2015/16 and 2020/21, the King’s Fund, said, but that was “a long way short of the £10bn” increase claimed by the government.

The King’s Fund want to see the manifestos support the NHS and social care work force, staff retention, financial pressures and the risk of losing EU nationals working in the NHS as a result of Brexit. 

But Ham stressed it was “important therefore that the parties do not constrain themselves by making commitments on tax and spending that make it impossible to do what is needed to sustain and improve health and social care.”

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