Conservative Party shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley has pledged to increase the next NHS pay settlement if elected to government.
In an interview with the Health Service Journal, Mr Lansley said NHS pay did not depend ‘how much money the government has.’
Pay makes up more than 40 per cent of total NHS spending - the pay bill was £36.5bn in 2007. The next pay settlement is due in 2011-12.
Mr Lansley told HSJ that pay settlements should be based on the market rate rather than the government’s budget.
‘Pay determination shouldn’t be set in line with financial allocations, it should be set in line with what is necessary to recruit [and] retain the workforce that you require,’ he said.
‘It’s a fallacy to say the amount of pay for 2012-13 depends on how much money the government has.’
He said NHS pay should instead be determined by the local and national ‘pay environment’ and added: ‘I see no reason why there should not be a collective negotiation about those things without government [being] involved.’
However, health sectary Andy Burnham dismissed Mr Lansley’s comments as ‘nonsense.’
He said: ‘This is an astonishing statement from a man that wants to be health secretary.’
‘Recruitment and retention are important, but so is overall affordability. It is a nonsense to suggest that the NHS should strike a deal now for two or three years hence without knowing the size of the spending envelope.
‘Decisions of this kind can only be responsibly taken when we have a much clearer picture of employment and pay in the wider economy as we come through the downturn.’
But Mr Lansley said the comments had been misinterpreted. In a statement, he said: ‘The Health Service Journal have got this 180 degres wrong. The problem in recent years has been that staff pay has simply increased in line with the huge rises in the NHS budget.
‘In these times of increasing financial pressure we need to ensure that we move to a situation where pay is instead defined by what is necessary to recruit, retain and motivate the staff, and also what is affordable for local healthcare providers. Future NHS allocations will not be able to accommodate inflationary staff costs.’
The Health Service Journal stands by it’s story.
Would a Conservative government pay nurses more?