Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, just six months ago called for a big pay rise for nurses to reflect the cost of living in the crisis, describing as “unacceptable” that they are struggling to buy enough food for their families, pay for housing and travel to work.
Statements made last July in a report by the Select Committee on Health and Social Care, which Hunt chaired at the time and which he signed, put more pressure on the chancellor to offer a better deal to nurses and other NHS workers to prevent further devastating strikes and stop exodus of key personnel to the private sector.
In a report titled “The Workforce: Recruitment, Training and Retention in Health and Social Care”, the committee concluded after a detailed investigation that: “.
It was explicitly suggested that they would get a wage increase to cope with inflationary pressures. Inflation at that time was over 10%. The report goes on to say: “To reflect the key work they do to keep the NHS running and improve recruitment and retention, the Government must ensure that all NHS staff working under the Action for Change program [the government blueprint for the overhaul of the NHS pay system] a wage reward that adequately takes into account the cost of living in a crisis.
The government must give all NHS workers… a wage bonus that takes due account of the cost of living in a crisis
Report of the Committee on Health and Social Welfare
“The NHS needs to review the job descriptions used for nurses and midwives under the Action for Change program to make sure nurses and midwives are fairly remunerated for the safety-critical roles they perform.”
The Treasury, led by Hunt, however, is now seen by unions and even by some in government as a major roadblock to progress in pay talks. He urges ministers not to go beyond the recommendations of the NHS pay review body, which has suggested an average of 4% for nurses and around 9% for some of the lowest earners, such as hospital porters.
The Select Committee report also called for the immediate replacement of the Nursing Scholarship Scheme for Nurse Practitioners, which was abolished while Hunt was Secretary of Nursing Shortages.”
A senior Tory MP said this weekend that Hunt’s “thorough reflections” on the mistakes of his time as health and state secretary of state “have come back to haunt him”. The MP added: “As chairman of the Select Committee on Health and Social Welfare, he was able to look objectively at the health service and its needs. It is very difficult to argue now that this was the wrong position, especially given the overwhelming evidence that the NHS is now in crisis.”
Hunt has also been a strong advocate when out of government, more funding and even welfare reform he suggested on Twitter 19 July 2021 idea to introduce a 1% levy on all income to raise over £6 billion a year for the sector.
In his budget in November, Hunt increased social care funding by £4.7bn but postponed further rollouts by economist Andrew Dilnot, which include increasing the amount of wealth a person can own before getting public funding, from 23 £250 to £100,000 as well as capping lifetime care costs to £86,000.
A spokesman for the chancellor recently said Hunt deeply sympathized with NHS staff over their pay, but as chancellor he had to cut inflation. “The chancellor completely understands the anger of both public and private sector workers whose pay packages, through no fault of their own, are being eroded by 10% inflation.
“However, inflation-destroying increases in public sector wages threaten to perpetuate high prices in our economy, prolonging the pain for all. The best way to help everyone cover the cost of living is to stick to the half-inflation plan this year.”
Last weekend, the chief union negotiator, Sara Gorton, head of health at Unison, wrote to Treasury and Health Secretary Steve Barclay No.
There will be more ambulance strikes on Monday and Tuesday, which will affect much of the country, while NHS physiotherapists are poised to start strike action on Thursday.