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  1. ITV Report

Labour pledges pay increase for 'overworked' NHS staff

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth announces Labour's pledge to NHS workers. Credit: Pool

Labour has said they will give NHS staff a pay rise if the party wins the General Election.

The party also plans to scrap tuition fees for student nurses and midwives, which had been covered by bursaries.

Announcing the new measures at the Unison Health Conference in Liverpool, Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: "The NHS is overstretched, understaffed and under threat... enough is enough."

He told the conference that NHS staff have been "taken for granted" with cuts to pay and training forcing workers out of the health service and leading to short staffing, threatening patient safety.

He added: "We will do what is in the interest of local needs, not what is in the interest of filling financial holes".

Labour said they will cut the 1% cap on pay increases for NHS staff. Credit: ITV News

He told the conference Labour will lift the 1% cap on pay rises for NHS staff, and move towards public sector wages being agreed through collective bargaining and independent pay review bodies.

The plans will require NHS trusts to have regard for patient safety when setting staffing levels, as "Tory mismanagement" has left the health service "dangerously understaffed".

Mr Ashworth said: "NHS staff have been taken for granted for too long by the Conservatives.

"Cuts to pay and training mean hard-working staff are being forced from NHS professions and young people are being put off before they have even started.

"Now Brexit threatens the ability of health employers to recruit from overseas.

"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 standard which England's patients expect."

Credit: ITV News

Addressing NHS workers directly, he said: "Thank you. For you care, your dedication, your self-sacrifice, your extraordinary efforts every day of the week.

"Literally, you're the difference between life and death."

Mr Ashworth's announcement was welcomed by unions.

Jon Skewes, of the Royal College of Midwives, said: "These are very welcome commitments from the Labour Party.

"They recognise the effort, determination and commitment on the part of our hard-working midwives and other NHS staff to deliver the safest and best possible care for those using the NHS.

"However, it is always easy to promise the world in opposition and when campaigning in an election. Whoever is in power after the next election needs to invest in the NHS and invest in its staff."

Conservative health minister Philip Dunne slammed the plans as "nonsensical".

He said: "We've protected and increased the NHS budget and got thousands more staff in hospitals.

"But all that's at risk with Jeremy Corbyn's nonsensical economic policies that would mean less money for the NHS. Just look at Wales where Labour's economic mismanagement means they had to cut funding."

The TUC general secretary, Frances O'Grady criticised the current 1% cap pay rise on NHS staff.

"Under the Government's current plans, NHS workers will lose thousands of pounds from their salaries.

"This is unfair, it will demoralise staff and it will increase the number who decide to quit.

"We hope all the parties will make an election pledge to scrap the unfair pay restrictions and give our hard-working NHS staff the pay rise they deserve."

Credit: PA

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said NHS staff are "struggling to get by" on below-inflation pay rises and lifting the 1% cap would make them feel valued.

"A decent wages increase would also help ease the crisis in staff recruitment," he said.

"There are too few nurses, paramedics and midwives in the NHS to deliver the best care, and this is putting patients at risk.

"NHS workers would be behind new laws thatmake first-class care - and not cost-cutting - a priority.

"Funding and support for students doing health-related degrees is also crucial in boosting staff numbers.

"The axing of bursaries was a short-sighted move that has seen student numbers plummet. It's a policy that must be overturned."