NHS staff in England are to receive a 3% pay increase after a day of confusion ended with an announcement that the Government had accepted recommendations from the pay review body.
An expected Commons statement at lunchtime failed to materialise, but a few hours later the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) issued a press release saying a 3% rise will be paid, backdated to April when the increase was due.
It will be paid to staff including nurses, paramedics, consultants, dentists and salaried GPs.
“We asked the independent pay review bodies for their recommendations and I’m pleased to accept them in full, with a 3% pay rise for all staff in scope, from doctors and nurses to paramedics and porters.
“We will back the NHS as we focus our efforts on getting through this pandemic and tackling the backlog of other health problems that has built up. I will continue to do everything I can to support all those in our health service who are working so tirelessly to care for patients.”
A statement said: “The Government committed to providing NHS staff with a pay uplift in recognition of the unique impact of the pandemic on the NHS.”
Labour accused the Government of “more chaos and confusion” after Health Minister Helen Whately made no mention of pay during her initial speech to the House of Commons on Wednesday.
Unions representing NHS workers had been set to react to confirmation of a 3% increase following months of delay – but the announcement did not come until just before 6pm in a DHSC press release.
The Government was already under attack for recommending a 1% pay rise despite the incredible pressure NHS staff have been under because of the pandemic.
The pay rise was due in April, and the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) made its recommendation almost a month ago.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted on Wednesday night: “Our NHS staff have been heroic throughout the pandemic, providing care and saving lives.
“To recognise the extraordinary contribution they have made they are receiving a 3% pay rise this year.”
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “The Government’s acceptance of the NHS pay review body recommendation is an improvement on its earlier miserly 1% proposal.
“But the increase falls short of what NHS staff deserve after the past 16 months. It’s less than the wage rise given to Scottish health colleagues and not enough to protect the NHS.
“Porters, cleaners, nurses, paramedics and other health workers have waited for months for what they hoped would be a fair deal.
“Ministers could have paid up last year if they really valued the NHS. Instead, staff have been made to hang on until the summer – long after their wage rise was due.
“Health workers are now expected to meet the deadly challenge of a new virus wave. The Government has failed to show staff just how valued they are to us all.
“There’s a risk many may not stay around to see the NHS through the pandemic and the clearing of the Covid backlog.”
Pat Cullen, interim general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “After a shambolic day, comes a shambolic announcement.
“When the Treasury expects inflation to be 3.7%, ministers are knowingly cutting pay for an experienced nurse by over £200 in real-terms.”
Rachel Harrison, GMB national officer, said: “NHS staff are on their knees – exhausted, fatigued and anxious – as we look set to enter another wave of the Covid pandemic. Staff morale is rock bottom.
“Hospitals and ambulance services are operating under extreme pressures due to rising demand and staffing shortages.
“Now, rather than focusing on staff welfare they are being advised to enter the workplace against self-isolation advice and now given this frankly appalling pay offer.
“This was the opportunity for Government to turn their clapping in to genuine recognition. Their response is paltry. They have failed spectacularly.”
Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “The Pay Review Body’s recommendation of 3% is grossly inadequate and underwhelming, and in no way recognises the 19% drop in real earnings that many NHS workers have endured in the last decade, nor the Herculean sacrifices that health staff have and are continuing to make as Covid infection rates rapidly rise again.
“Members have been telling us that 3% would be insulting and show that they are not valued – it doesn’t even match the 4% the Scottish Government offered to NHS workers backdated to December 2020.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Key worker pay is the acid test for the Prime Minister’s promise to ‘build back fairer’.
“Every key worker deserves a decent standard of living for their family, but too often their hard work does not pay. We owe them better.”
Shadow health minister Justin Madders said: “Another day, another U-turn, and more chaos and confusion from this Government.
“Once again, this Government has had to row back on a shoddy, ill-thought through position, with their 1% pay rise – a real terms pay cut – rejected by the independent pay body.
“The pay review body has done what ministers could and would not do – recognise that our NHS staff absolutely cannot be given a pay cut.
“After their hypocrisy, applauding NHS workers while trying to cut their pay, the Government must make our NHS and key workers feel supported and valued after all they have done for us.”
In Wales, Health Minister Eluned Morgan also agreed a 3% pay rise for all NHS staff, saying: “This pay rise recognises the dedication and commitment of hardworking NHS staff and the enormous contribution they have made.
“It is also a recognition of how valued they are by Welsh communities.
“For our lowest paid staff, this means we have gone above the Living Wage recommendation of £9.50 an hour, demonstrating our commitment to NHS Wales being a Living Wage employer.”
Meanwhile, a bitterly opposed pay freeze for police officers was confirmed and the confirmation of a pay freeze for teachers was branded an insulting “slap in the face”.