A group of peers have co-signed a letter in a national newspaper today urging the government to reconsider its policy on pay in the public sector, ahead of a debate later today.
The letter, which was published in The Times, is signed by 10 cross-bench, Labour and Liberal Democrat peers and comes ahead of a debate in the House of Lords later today on the same topic.
“We would urge the government to reconsider its current position on pay”
Its signatories include nursing academic Baroness Mary Watkins of Tavistock, former Labour health minster Lord Norman Warner and Lord Phil Willis of Knaresborough, who led the Shape of Caring review on nurse education, which published its findings in 2015.
In the letter, the peers argued that the 1% pay rise cap must be “reversed immediately” and criticised its “detrimental effect” on the NHS.
They also highlighted that it had resulted in a real-terms pay cut for staff due to inflation, quoting Royal College of Nursing analysis that nurses were £3,000 worse off than they were in 2010.
The peers warned that the pay rise cap was leaving “vast gaps” across the workforce and, despite the hard work of clinicians, patient care was being “inevitably compromised” by short staffing.
They also noted that, at the same time, the NHS “must rise to the challenge” of an ageing society and increasing demands from people with multiple conditions, which was putting unprecedented pressures on health and social care services.
“Low pay in the public sector leads people to work outside of health and care services,” stated the peers in the letter.
“We would urge the government to reconsider its current position on pay in the public sector,” they added.
Commenting on the letter, Janet Davies, RCN chief executive and general secretary, said: “It is clear that the pay cap is unsustainable and these cross-party peers join a growing number, including members of the government, who believe the cap should be scrapped.
“The reality is that more and more nurses can no longer afford to stay in the profession,” she said. “Patient care suffers when hospitals are short staffed and now that more nurses are leaving than joining the situation is set to get worse.
“Nurses are protesting across the country this summer to stand up for safe patient care and the profession they love,” said Ms Davies.
She added: “The government must prevent more staff from being driven away by putting patient safety first and scrapping the cap.”
Last month MPs in the lower house voted not to remove the cap on public sector pay, which limits annual salary increases for nurses and other NHS staff to 1%.
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Following a debate on the Queen’s Speech in the House of Commons on 28 June, an end to the cap was rejected by MPs by 323 votes to 309, providing a government majority of 14.
However, pressure has been growing on the government over NHS pay, with several high profile figures in the health service arguing for an end to the 1% cap and the health secretary agreeing to meet with unions on the issue.
The RCN has also begun a series of protests under the banner “scrap the cap” and the Royal College of Midwives today launched its own campaign, urging its members to write to MPs about pay.
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The full text of the letter
Today the House of Lords will debate the cap on public sector pay. It will not be characterised by party politics and high rhetoric. As a group of peers representing all parties and none, we will keep it focused on the impact the pay cap is having on staff and the people they serve.
The current 1% pay cap is due to remain for two more years. But we believe its detrimental impact on the NHS and other parts of the public sector must be reversed immediately.
‘We aim to ensure nurses get the best education and training’
The health and care systems in the UK still do not reflect the needs of the century of the ageing society. An unprecedented increase in demand is already being seen as people survive more illnesses, and live for longer, often with multiple conditions. The NHS needs to be able to rise to this challenge; but there are vast gaps in the workforce across nearly all professions.
Low pay in the public sector leads people to work outside of health and care services. Even though health care professionals deliver care to the best of their ability, patient care and safety is inevitably compromised when hospitals and other care settings are short of staff.
For people in nursing, the pay cap has led to a real-terms drop in earnings worth 14%, or around £3,000 per year, since 2010. With inflation (Retail Price Index) now running at 3.7%, a salary rise capped at 1% is effectively a pay cut at a time of rising food, housing and other costs.
We would urge the Government to reconsider its current position on pay in the public sector.
- Baroness Watkins, Crossbencher
- Lord Warner, Crossbencher
- Lord Haskel, Labour
- Lord Clark, Labour
- Baroness Wheeler, Labour
- Baroness Lister, Labour
- Baroness Blood, Labour
- Lord Willis, Liberal Democrat
- Baroness Kramer, Liberal Democrat
- Baroness Walmsley, Liberal Democrat