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Catch-up on the parliament debate on nurse pay live


Nursing Times reported from the parliamentary debate on scrapping the cap on nurse pay rises from 4.30pm until 7pm on 30 January. Follow proceedings as they happened here.

7pm: You can watch the entire debate back at your own leisure via this link to Parliament TV. A full transcript of the debate has also now been published on the House of Commons Hansard.

6.45pm: You can read separate news reports summarising the arguments put by MPs and the government’s defence, written by Nursing Times reporter Nicola Merrifield who attended the event.

6.30pm: Debate on Agenda for Change NHS pay restraint ends. 

6.26pm: Summing up prior to the end of the debate, Ms McKinnell questioned how a situation had been reached a situation “where nurses, midwives and other invaluable NHS staff are struggling to pay their bills and put food on the table”, and were drien to “pawning their possessions and turning to payday loans”.

“On the softer side, they are turning to agency work to top up their pay – not to afford the luxuries in life, but the basics,” said the MP for North Newcastle.

She stated: “It is a completely unsustainable situation, and the government must take urgent action to lift this burden off our NHS staff so that they can do their job, which is caring for us and our loved ones without the fear of financial insecurity hanging over their every working day.”

6.05pm: Health minister Philip Dunne talks about the need to invest in technology to improve patient care, in contrast to the NHS staff wage bill.

He said: “We recognise that the NHS faces a number of very challenging pressures: not just the ageing population, but the expectations of the public, who rightly demand quality personalised care at home or in hospital every day, not just from Monday to Friday.

“Those pressures will not be resolved just through pay, but by engaging with staff as they adapt and respond to new ways of working, including by introducing change that comes with scientific development and by supporting them through appropriate training and development,” the minister said.


Follow the parliament debate on nurse pay live

Health minister Philip Dunne responds to questions from MPs

5.55pm Mr Dunne was questioned on the government’s view of the NHS pay review body, which has traditionally provided independent advice on remuneration for Agenda for Change staff but was seemingly ignored when ministers unveiled their five-year 1% freeze on pay rises.

He said: “We continue to rely on the independent pay review bodies, which for decades have applied their expertise and objectivity in making recommendations to government, and we have huge respect for their important work.

“Last year, the government accepted its recommendations for 2016-17. We have provided our evidence to the current round – as have others, including trade unions – and we expect its recommendations in the coming weeks,” he added.

6pm: Health minister Philip Dunne responds on behalf of the government, arguing against suggestions from other MPs that nurses were undervalued.

“We are all rightly proud of our national health service and the staff who work incredibly hard day and night for the benefit of patients,” he said. “They undoubtedly deserve a cost of living increase, but we must recognise that the financial and quality challenge facing the NHS is unprecedented. These are not normal times.

“I deny the allegation that Agenda for Change staff are undervalued, as the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) indicated in his speech, which was knowledgeable, given his previous role as health secretary. Staff at all levels in the NHS do a fantastic job, and it is vital that we in government and the leaders of the NHS recognise that staff morale is important to maintaining staff commitment to services,” he added.

Department of Health

Student bursary system ‘unsustainable’, claims minister

Phillip Dunne

Mr Dunne said: “I know that pay restraint is challenging, but when I speak to staff, they tell me that they want to know that the right number of staff will be working alongside them in the hospital or community setting. The government have listened.

“Contrary to some of the contributions made by hon. members, staff numbers have increased significantly across most grades since May 2010… More than 13,300 more nurses are working on our wards today than in May 2010 – the overall number of nurses working for the NHS is at an all-time high,” he said. “There are over 2,100 more midwives, and more than 6,300 currently in training, as well as over 1,500 more health visitors and over 2,400 more paramedics.

“The allegation that people are leaving the NHS in droves is simply not borne out by the facts,” he said. ”The most recent workforce statistics were published last week, covering the period ending October 2016, and they showed that a record number of full-time equivalents were working in our NHS.”


Conservative Party

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Philip Dunne

5.24pm: Dr Philippa Whitford, SNP member for Central Ayrshire, warned that pay exacerabted wider workforce stresses on nurses that might push some into retirement.

“We get what we pay for. If we treat people badly, eventually they go away, or, if they are approaching retiral, they do not go on working; they finish, because frankly they are burnt out. Nursing is a hard, heavy and stressful job,” she said.

“The whole message that is sent by nurses, particularly those who are in their late 50s and approaching 60, is that they are burnt out; they do not feel valued,” she said. “When they have to work hours and hours beyond their shifts, doing what is frankly heavy labour – coming from that background, I can vouch for its being heavy physical work – they will of course leave as soon as they can manage to do so.”

She added: “The problem is that that exacerbates the pressure on all their colleagues, and that is what we are seeing with the huge shortage of thousands of nursing posts across England.”

5.20pm:  Mr Burnham, MP for Leigh and the last Labour health secretary, asks “how can it possibly make sense” to scrap the bursary for student nurses, on top of the recent years of pay freezes, a shortage of nurses being trained and other uncertainties, such as Brexit.

“It doesn’t help deficit reduction”, if you are “pushing” nurses into the private sector due to poor pay in the health service, suggests Mr Burnham. Nurses are the “backbone of the NHS”, but they have “limits”, he adds.


Follow the parliament debate on nurse pay live

Dr Philippa Whitford, SNP MP for Central Ayrshire, takes part in the debate on nurse pay restraint on 30 January

5.16pm: Three former ministers from three different parties involved in the debate so far Labour’s Andy Burnham, Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb and Conservative Dan Poulter.

4.49pm: Ms McKinnell goes on to highlight figures collected by unions showing the amount of money spent by the NHS on agency nursing staff, which she said could have instead been given in pay rises to help retain permanent staff.

The is facing a “perfect staff” on staffing, she said.

She says that Agenda for Change staff have seen a real-terms pay cut of 14% since 2011, according to estimates by Unison.

4.47pm: Dr Dan Poulter, Conservative M P for Central Suffolk and former health minister, says it is “unaccebtable” for senior NHS managers to be given big pay rises while frontline staff are left with increases of zero or 1%.

4.42pm: Philip Hollobone, Conservative MP for Kettering, notes that MPs are automatically awarded pay rises but those of nurses and other healthcare staff are in question, which he suggests is an unfair disparity. At least two other MPs note their agreement with him.

4.38pm: Ms McKinnell highlights that the original idea behind Agenda for Change was “equal pay for work of equal value” and to “address more local recruitment and retention difficulties”.

4.34pm: Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb suggests that pay, along with concerns about a retirement bubble and uncertainty after Brexit, that “we face a real recruitment crisis”.

4.40pm: Ms McKinnell also shared the concerns raised with her by several Newcastle North frontline healthcare workers ahead of the debate. For example, she said: “’I now struggle to afford the basics and am having to do extra shifts just to be able to provide food and pay my bills…I am missing out on valuable time with my family as I have to work nearly every weekend in order to be able to get a wage that can cover our costs.’

Labour Party

Follow the parliament debate on nurse pay live

Catherine McKinnell

“‘I am paid about £14.50 an hour to clean up faeces, vomit, blood and other bodily fluids. To hold the hands of patients who are dying. To comfort the relatives of patients who are dying. To maintain complicated machinery/equipment that is keeping a person alive whilst watching the newly-qualified staff nurse who doesn’t feel confident and make sure they don’t do anything dangerous.

“‘After studying hard for three years mixing university, placements and guided learning, I gained my degree only to find myself in more dire financial circumstances than I was as a student…I am a qualified professional and yet I would class myself as being on the breadline. I know there are others in greater need than I am; however I feel like I work hard and sacrifice my family time for nothing’,” she said.

”‘After six years of pay restraint, I now see nurses struggling day to day to make ends meet. Those who have stayed are now planning to leave the NHS early and newly qualified nurses are unable to stay without reasonable remuneration. I feel like I grieve every day for my profession now. We have an NHS workforce currently willing to work as hard as the service asks them, but this goodwill is now eroding faster than I have ever seen in all my years’ service. I am retiring within a couple of years. This request comes not for me, but for those who come after me and who will be caring for me and my family in the future’,” she added.

4.30pm: Catherine McKinnell, Labour MP for Newcastle North, introduces the debate, highlighting the petition started by Danielle Tiplady and the need to end the cap on nurse pay rises. “This pay restraint must end”, she tells MPs.

She said: “It’s hard to emphasise enough my support for people working across the NHS in increasingly challenging circumstances, without whom our health service would, quite frankly, cease to exist…

“How have we found ourselves in a position in which hard-working, dedicated, exhausted nurses, midwives and other healthcare professionals are genuinely struggling to make ends meet?

“We have the nonsensical situation whereby nurses are leaving the NHS because of increasing workloads, stress and feeling undervalued following years of pay restraint, so the NHS has to turn to expensive agency nurses to fill the gaps left behind,” she said.

3pm: The government’s ongoing public sector pay restraint policy is creating such low morale and financial difficulty among NHS nurses and midwives that they are leaving for work elsewhere, nurses and midwives told Nursing Times today ahead of a parliamentary debate.

12-2pm: Nurses lobbied MPs in an attempt to encourage them to attend today’s debate to remove the 1% pay cap.

11-11.30am: RCN members, including the union’s leaders, held a protest this morning outside the House of Commons, ahead of lobbying MPs in parliament over the issue of pay and the forthcoming debate.

Royal College of Nursing

Follow the parliament debate on nurse pay live

RCN members outside the House of Commons

Royal College of Nursing

Follow the parliament debate on nurse pay live

RCN chief executive and general secretary Janet Davies, with RCN president Cecilia Anim

Royal College of Nursing

Follow the parliament debate on nurse pay live

RCN chief executive Janet Davies, RCN president Cecilia Anim and Lorrae Allford, vice chair of council

10am: Today, MPs are to debate the 1% freeze on nurse pay rises later today, following successful petitioning by campaigners.

A petition started by nurse campaigner Danielle Tiplady was subsequently signed by over 100,000 people – the threshold required on the parliament website for an issue to be considered for debate.

Catherine McKinnell, Labour MP for Newcastle North, will lead the debate, which will be held today in Westminster Hall at 4.30pm.

A Nursing Times reporter will attend a lunchtime protest organised by the Royal College of Nursing today andNursing Times will be reporting live from the debate at 4.30pm.

Keep up to date via the live feed below or follow @nic_merrifield on social media site Twitter


Readers' comments (2)

  • The big gap payments to Agency staff will damage the real meaning of care, and will drain the NHS

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  • I can't see that this will end well. As far as I can make out, the starting salary for say, a midwife, was £21176 in 2010 and it's £21909 now.

    Except that soon 9% of earnings will be taken away to repay student loans following the abandonment of bursaries. Is this right or am I missing something? Add to this an inflation rate of 1.6% and a pay rise of 1% I can only assume it's a plan to rid the NHS of nurses born in the UK.

    And yet George Osborne says this will encourage more provision. Well, he would, wouldn't he?

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