Behind the scenes

Tory minister hits back at criticism of 1% pay rise for NHS staff

Nadine Dorries dismisses anger over ‘pitiful’ planned increase by arguing that nurses ‘do their job because they love their job’

Nadine Dorries has shrugged off criticism of a proposed 1% pay rise for doctors and nurses by insisting that she was “pleasantly surprised” they were getting a wage hike at all. 

Health unions have described the meagre increase as “bitterly disappointing”, while Labour has accused Chancellor Rishi Sunak of being “too cowardly” to mention the NHS pay plan in his budget speech earlier this week.

But Mental Health Minister Dorries told BBC Breakfast today that she was “was pleasantly surprised that we were making an offer”, given that most public sector workers are facing a pay freeze.

She added: “I was a nurse myself ... I became a nurse because I loved nursing. I hope that those nurses who love their jobs too will stay in the NHS and stick with us through what is a difficult time.”

Dorries’ comments have fuelled anger over the proposed pay rise for 1.4 million NHS staff in England, who as The Independent notes have been “pushed to the limit during the Covid crisis”.

Royal College of Nursing general secretary Professor Dame Donna Kinnair said the “pitiful” 1% rise would amount to an extra £3.50 per week for an experienced nurse, and warned of a “backlash” from furious health workers. 

The Times reports that the pay award “may amount to a real-terms pay cut”, with the Office of Budget Responsibility forecasting that inflation will rise from 0.9% to 1.5% this year.

But government sources “say that inflation is so low that 1% still represents a real-terms increase and that public finances are constrained”, BBC health editor Hugh Pym reports.

The pay increase rate is being recommended by the NHS Pay Review Body, with ministers due to make a final decision later this year. 

Keir Starmer has added his voice to the calls for a heftier increase, tweeting an image of today’s Daily Mirror splash decrying the “insult to NHS heroes”.

The Labour leader argues in his post that “you can’t rebuild a country by cutting nurses’ pay. Give our Covid heroes a pay rise.”

Starmer’s party and other critics have also slated Treasury boss Sunak for failing to make any mention of NHS pay in his newly unveiled budget. 

“No wonder the chancellor had nothing to say about the NHS,” said the Unison union’s health boss, Sara Gorton, in a statement

The proposed 1% rise “is the worst kind of insult” for health workers “who’ve given their absolute everything over the past year”, and “the public will be horrified”, she added.

Responding to the criticisms, a government spokesperson said that ministers would consider the recommendations of pay review bodies, adding: “Pay rises in the rest of the public sector will be paused this year... but we will continue to provide pay rises for NHS workers.”

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