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Parliament clashes over Hunt's decision to hold-down NHS pay


Giving NHS staff a bigger pay rise would damage patient care, according to health secretary Jeremy Hunt who claimed the cash was needed for frontline nurses.

He told the House of Commons on Tuesday this week that a pay deal, which would see staff get “at least a 1% pay rise”, was “the right thing to do”.

“I think the most damaging thing for patient care would be to award a pay award that would mean we potentially lost 6,000 nursing jobs on our frontline,” he said.

“The most damaging thing for patient care would be to award a pay award that would mean we potentially lost 6,000 nursing jobs”

Jeremy Hunt

“That would be incredibly bad for patients and incredibly bad for nurses as well. All nurses are getting a minimum 1% rise. That is the right thing to do.”

At the end of last month, Mr Hunt signalled he was willing to negotiate over the controversial pay settlement after the government rejected a 1% cost of living rise for all staff with a freeze on incremental pay increases.

Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt

One of Mr Hunt’s health ministers, Dan Poulter, then told MPs it was “unacceptable” for staff to get what he described as “two pay rises”.

“On NHS pay what we believe in is we need to have enough frontline staff to care for patients. That’s the lesson of Mid Staffs,” said Dr Poulter, who has particular responsibility for nursing policy.

“What the previous government would have done and what the opposition would have us do is to give some staff in the NHS two pay rises not just one. That’s unacceptable when we need to have enough staff to make sure that we can look after patients.”

The health secretary was quizzed on other nursing issues including hourly ward rounds and a drop in the number of senior nurses.

Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George accused him of imposing new “tick-box” targets for nurses with the introduction of hourly rounding.

Mr Hunt said there was no target to bring in hourly rounding across the board, but highlighted evidence from hospitals such as Salford Royal that it boosted patient care.

“It results in the buzzer going off less often, calmer wards and problems being nipped in the bud,” he said. “People are given food and water before they feel the need to ask for it and we end up with better and safer care.”

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, flagged up a worrying drop in the number of band 8 nurses in the north east. He said numbers had fallen by 87 since the general election.

“The number of nurses overall is up 1,600 since the general election,” said Mr Hunt. “Let me be absolutely clear that I do not believe in a system where the secretary of state is micro-managing precisely how many nurses there are in every ward in every hospital in the country.”

“It is an insult to hard working nurses to imply that the small, below-inflation pay uplift would be damaging to patients”

Peter Carter

Responding to Mr Hunt’s comments on pay, Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “It is an insult to hard working nurses to imply that the small, below-inflation pay uplift which was recommended by the independent pay review body, would be damaging to patients.

“The NHS has wasted billions on a chaotic reorganisation, has thrown redundancy payments to senior managers who return a few months later, and handed a £3bn underspend back to the Treasury.”

He added: “To waste this money and then claim that a fair wage for nurses would have to come at the cost of safe staffing levels is utterly disingenuous and insulting to hard working frontline staff.”


Readers' comments (29)

  • dr dan poulter is a hunt!!

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  • Anon 1.05am

    Never a truer word said!

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  • The bit about two pay rises is disingenuous at best as it was Thatcher's Government that either perpetuated or brought in the incremental steps in the clinical regrading of the late 1980s.

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  • Jeremy Hunt is a man devoid of integrity, morals, compassion and intelligence. God help the NHS and all nurses whilst this total loser is in control of the nation's health. Remember the election is coming, Cameron's poodle, Clegg, got a mauling the the other night in live debate, and public will see through these less than mediocre time servers at the election.

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  • Incremental steps have been in place since the 1960's, what Thatchers government did was increase the number of increments and decrease the number of Senior Nursing positions with the Griffiths review. I think that this whole argument is flawed, why should the government award themselves 11% increase saying that they had no choice as it was what was recommended they have and then refuse to accept the recommendation made for nurses?

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  • I thik it is entirely acceptable for a 1% pay rise - PROVIDED that Member's of Parliament are willing to accept a salary commensurate with that earned by the average nurse and also accept only a 1% pay rise too. What's that? They aren't willing to accept that 'deal'? No, I didn't think they would!

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  • 1% pay rise or the increment you are due? In our Trust the pay rise is an 'additional payment equivalent to 1%' and so is not pensionable - our pay rate is actually staying the same - or the next increment if not at the top of the band.

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  • Roll on retirement!
    Hourly rounding through the night is silly as patients need SLEEP, not to be disturbed every hour so we can look at their pressure areas, give them a drink when all they really want is a good nights rest. I'm not saying that we shouldn't check pressure areas, but we should do it when they are stirring or awake, not disturb them all the time. Many studies have shown that a good nights sleep is incredibly beneficial for recovery. These politicians have no bloody idea what is needed; they live in a different world with their big fat salaries, and massive pay rises. No wonder so many nurses are looking for an alternative career.

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  • What is the point of ourselves and the unions negotiating a pay strucure for the NHS. The governemnt of the day what ever their political colour change things.
    Health and education should be taken out of the political arena and stop being used as a football to try and score pathetic ploitical points. The people of the UK have grown up with the NHS are used to it and would prefer for it not to be hacked to death for pointless political gain. We are not stupid, we know the NHS needs to be effective in care delivery and costs. But politicians constantly mucking about with it tends to increase the costs and spending rather that decrease it. Just look at what has happened since "Working for patients" in the 1990s.
    Please for goodness sake leave us alone to care for people

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  • Hourly rounding on the ward I work on is supposed to be done every 2 hours. But many nurses just fill it in at the end of the shift. Yes, it has been documented but does it mean it has actually been done!!!!

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