NHS Strikes: Mark Drakeford rejects calls for higher income tax to fund nurses' pay rise

ITV wales nurses
Many NHS nurses have been striking due to pay and conditions. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

The First Minister has rejected calls to increase Welsh income taxes in order to pay for a bigger pay rise for nurses. 

In First Minister’s Questions, Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price urged Mark Drakeford to find the money for a bigger pay rise for nurses. 

Unions are due to meet the Health Minister on Thursday to discuss a new offer from the Welsh Government of a one-off payment, which is not what they are calling for. 

The Welsh Government has repeatedly said that it cannot afford a bigger pay rise because its funding is tied to that of the UK Government.

Adam Price said the First Minister could take his own actions.

"Do you accept that you do have tax raising powers which could generate additional revenue so it's not right to say that your ability to turn a one off payment into a recurrent pay rise is entirely determined by Westminster. It's a political choice."

But it is a choice the First Minister said he would not make. 

"Welsh citizens will pay higher taxes next year, however, they have for the last 70 years they've been asked to do that in the teeth of a cost of living crisis where they are already struggling to pay fuel bills, energy bills, food bills and other bills to this cabinet look to see whether we should take more money out of our pockets by raising taxes and decided that that was not the sensible course of action."

The First Minister has also defended the practice of discharging some patients from hospital even if they do not have a full care package. 

Mark Drakeford said it was advice from senior medical officials and not a political decision. And he insisted patients would only be discharged if it was safe to do so. 

On December 30, the Welsh Government sent a letter to health boards saying that hospitals may need to consider discharge arrangements that “may not be perfect.”

The letter continued: "A care package may not yet be in place and social care assessments may need to happen at home rather than in hospital. Our hospital capacity must be preserved for those at greatest risk with greatest chance of benefit."

In the Senedd chamber today, the Opposition leader Andrew RT Davies challenged the First Minister on it, saying: “Doctors and health professionals have said that patients could potentially die or come to serious harm. Do you agree with the doctors and health professionals in their assessment on your plans?"

Mark Drakeford did not agree and accused Mr Davies of irresponsibility. 

"It is utterly irresponsible of him to misrepresent the advice not of the Welsh Government, but of the deputy chief medical officer and the chief nursing officer of Wales, I have their letter in front of me and it does not in any way bear up the accusations that the leader of the opposition has just made. It refers throughout to safe discharge."