Nurses to protest over 1% cap on public sector pay

Medics say seven years of restrictions have resulted in real-terms cuts of 14% amid news that the government could lift limit.

Thousands of nurses are expected to call on the Government to end the 1% cap on public sector pay at a demonstration in Parliament Square later.

The protest is the culmination of a summer of action by members of the Royal College of Nursing who say that seven years of pay restraint has led to a real-terms pay cut of 14% and could threaten patient safety.

The demonstration comes in the week of fresh reports that the Government is considering ending pay restraint this autumn.

The Prime Minister’s spokeswoman did not deny reports that the process for reversing a policy that has held for seven years is under way.

Pay review bodies will receive guidance letters from the Treasury in the coming weeks which may give them leeway to recommend increases in line with inflation in time for the Budget.

Such a move could cost the Government up to £8bn a year.

Public sector unions have warned that as a result of the pay cap morale in the health service is dangerously low, with some nurses forced to take second jobs or use hardship funds and food banks to make ends meet.

They also say pay is contributing to an ongoing recruitment and retention crisis in the NHS, which currently has 40,000 vacancies for nurses.

The RCN says its members’ concerns are echoed by patients. In new polling conducted by YouGov seven out of 10 said they believe the NHS lacks adequate nursing staff.

A similar proportion believes nurses are underpaid for their work, including a majority of Conservative voters.

Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the RCN, said: “The public can see the shortage of nurses for themselves. Ministers are significantly out of touch with public opinion. They should heed this warning, scrap the pay cap and help to recruit thousands more nurses for a safer NHS.”

Senior ministers including Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, have all hinted at support for an end to the cap.

Conservative MP Maria Caulfield, a former nurse, told Sky News that the cap should be lifted, but hinted that a gradual process beginning with the least well-paid may be adopted.

“While we don’t want to go on a public spending spree I think it’s about priorities and I think seven years after the pay freeze we need to say to frontline staff, and it’s not just nurses it’s teachers, it’s police officers, that they have carried these services through a tough time and there are ways of doing it.

“You don’t have to blanket lift a pay cap, there are ways of targeting those who carried the service, are at the frontline.”

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour shadow health secretary, called for an immediate end to the cap.

“If Theresa May wanted to lift the pay cap she could stand up at the Despatch Box today and do it. If they can find £1bn for the DUP so that they can win their votes in Parliament then they should find the money for our hard-working public sector workers.”

This article was taken from:

By: Paul Kelso, Health Correspondent

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