NHS staff to get 3% pay rise as government announces following 'shambolic' U-turn

ITV News Correspondent Juliet Bremner reports on the latest government U-turn on the NHS pay rise

NHS staff in England are to get a pay rise of 3% after the government bowed to pressure over its previous offer of just 1% which caused fury among health workers.

The announcement has been branded "shambolic" by the Royal College of Nursing, after an expected announcement at lunchtime failed to materialise with a press release issued on Wednesday evening.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: "NHS staff are rightly receiving a pay rise this year despite the wider public sector pay pause, in recognition of their extraordinary efforts.

"We asked the independent pay review bodies for their recommendations and I’m pleased to accept them in full, with a 3% pay rise for all staff in scope, from doctors and nurses to paramedics and porters."

The pay rise will apply to nurses, paramedics, consultants, as well as dentists, and will be backdated to April 2021.

The Welsh Government has also agreed a 3% pay rise for NHS workers there. In Scotland, NHS workers have been awarded a 4% pay rise.

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It's another U-turn for the government after previously refusing to budge on the earlier offer of 1%, which Boris Johnson had said was as much as the country could afford.

Despite the slightly increased offer of 3%, many in the industry are still not happy.

"Hospitals and other parts of the NHS are struggling to recruit nurses and healthcare support workers," the Royal College of Nursing said.

"The government has been warned that many more are on the verge of leaving. With today’s decision, ministers have made it even harder to provide safe care to patients."

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The group said the 3% pay rise amounts to a real terms pay rise, with the Treasury expecting inflation to be at 3.7%.

The GMB union said the "insulting" pay rise offer had been "sneaked out as MPs are packing up for summer holidays".

Rachel Harrison, GMB national officer, said: "Hospitals and ambulance services are operating under extreme pressures due to rising demand and staffing shortages.

"Now, rather than focusing on staff welfare they are being advised to enter the workplace against self-isolation advice and now given this frankly appalling pay offer."

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Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe acknowledged it is a "small step forward on the insulting 1% the government offered in March", but said it does not reward the "immense sacrifices" NHS staff have made in fighting the pandemic. "This recommendation in no way recognises the 19% drop in real earnings that many NHS workers have endured in the last decade, nor the immense sacrifices that health staff have and are continuing to make as Covid infection rates rapidly rise again. "

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Labour, meanwhile, branded the NHS pay announcement as chaotic, with Justin Madders, the Shadow Health Minister, saying:

"Another day, another U-turn, and more chaos and confusion from this government. Once again, this government has had to row back on a shoddy, ill-thought through position, with their 1% pay rise - a real terms pay cut - rejected by the independent pay body.

"The pay review body has done what Ministers could and would not do - recognise that our NHS staff absolutely cannot be given a pay cut.

"After their hypocrisy, applauding NHS workers while trying to cut their pay, the government must make our NHS and key workers feel supported and valued after all they have done for us."

For the average nurse, a 3% pay rise will mean an additional £1,000 a year, while many porters and cleaners will receive around £540.

ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston questioned where the money would come from to pay NHS staff, asking whether it would cut into funding for health services.

The government caused anger among unions for failing to make the announcement earlier, with many expecting health minister Helen Whately to make the announcement in the House of Commons on Wednesday afternoon.

She later released a statement on the pay rise, saying "NHS staff have worked incredibly hard to fight the pandemic" and "I’m glad to confirm we are accepting the pay review bodies' recommendations in full this year, so staff in their remit will receive a 3% pay rise".

Boris Johnson joined in a nationwide clap for the NHS. Credit: 10 Downing Street

In March Prime Minister Johnson defended the 1% pay rise offer, saying: "What we have done is try to give them as much as we can at the present time. "Don't forget that there has been a public sector pay freeze, we're in pretty tough times."

The offer of 1%, which amounts to a real-term pay cut when inflation is considered, caused a huge public backlash with many questioning why the extraordinary efforts of NHS staff to deal with the pandemic had not earned them a pay rise.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak had defended the offer as "proportionate, fair and reasonable", despite a 2019 Commons vote agreeing NHS staff should get a pay rise of at least 2.1%.

The government increased its offer from 1% to 3% after accepting recommendations of the independent NHS Pay Review Body (NHSPRB) and the Review Body for Doctors’ and Dentists’ Renumeration.

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