Should the 1% pay cap be scrapped for those who work in the NHS?

The public are “weary” of austerity but the Government’s approach to the public sector pay cap has not changed, Chancellor Philip Hammond said last night. At the end of a long day of conflicting messages over a possible end to the public sector pay freeze, the Chancellor told the Confederation of British Industry President’s dinner that the Government remained committed to maintaining the balance between being fair to public servants and the taxpayers who fund their wages.

He said there had to be a “grown-up” debate about how to meet demands for improved public services, arguing that increasing economic growth or broad-based tax increases were the only ways to fund them.

Earlier yesterday, police minister Nick Hurd told the Commons there was an “active discussion” under way to ensure frontline workers are paid fairly, while Boris Johnson has also backed a wage boost for public sector staff.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has indicated that an end to the 1 per cent pay cap was possible, placing further pressure on the Chancellor, who is committed to bringing UK spending into line. Last night the Chancellor repeated his position, that further spending could only be paid for by tax rises.

Several Tory MPs have added to the pressure on Theresa May and Mr Hammond by calling for an end to the pay cap after the party lost its majority in the general election to the anti-austerity message from Labour, which pledged to scrap the 1 per cent ceiling.

What are your views? Has austerity lasted so long that it is damaging the NHS?

Comments (20) Add yours ↓
  1. Matthew Bultitude Consultant Urologist

    Yes.Moral is low and workers cannot keep having their pay cut in real terms without leading to discontent. However I have little confidence that the pay review bodies will actually make appropriate pay recommendations to redress this imbalance. Meanwhile nursing recruitment in particular becomes increasingly challenging especially in London. And of course everyone remembers the “pay review body” awarding MP’s an 11% pay rise.

    July 4, 2017 Reply
  2. Declan Cahill Consultant Urologist

    1% pay rise is a pay cut in the context of higher inflation.
    The nursing bursary has been scrapped for nursing degrees so it’s expensive to train. No incentive to incur a debt for a job with such negative pay prospects.
    There has been a 23% reduction in UK applications for nursing degrees since the bursary was stopped.
    There has been a 96% reduction in European applications to UK nursing since BREXIt. This is also related to a more challenging language standard for entry.
    Shifts are already understaffed.
    With further workforce cuts we will lose more staff working in under pressure shifts. This compounds the already leaking workforce.
    In USA nurses are valued and according to skill level pro rata make about double UK nurses. They are valued and respected. It is a good job.
    We increasingly rely on nurse ANPs for junior medical roles.
    This is a vicious circle of trouble.
    We must speak out. Meanwhile give value added love and encouragement to those we work with. Make sure they feel valued and special. Because of course they are.

    July 4, 2017 Reply
  3. Roger Kirby Professor of Urology

    A key element of austerity has been declared “dead in the water” after firefighters were offered a wage increase busting through the cap on public sector pay. If accepted, increases this year and next would break through the 1 per cent limit previously demanded by Conservative ministers as essential to bringing down the deficit.

    News of a possible breach in the cap led to immediate and intense pressure from other public servants’ bodies, with nurses demanding Theresa May “bite the bullet” and scrap the cap, while police called for “shackles” to be removed. Labour said it showed “the writing is on the wall” for austerity, while Conservative MPs warned pressure for change could see the weakened Prime Minister face a backbench rebellion if insufficient action is taken.

    July 5, 2017 Reply
  4. Helen Gordon CEO

    NHS and other public service staff need to feel valued, and continued austerity does not help that. RSM is paying tribute to, and learning from, those who helped so many in recent terrorist attacks, from NHS, ambulance and police services, in this event: https://www.rsm.ac.uk/events/peh13

    July 5, 2017 Reply
  5. Roland Morley Consultant Urologist

    with firefighters and train drivers busting the pay ceiling, the cap is almost dead and buried, but it will be an uphill struggle.

    All this depends on economic theory and which camp your in. after many years of austerity , to attract the best medical staff pay needs to increase. This then results in more spending and stimulates the economy, which increases taxes for public services . Growth is now needed or the UK will stagnate

    Simple isn’t it?

    July 5, 2017 Reply
  6. Roger Kirby Professor of Urology

    Theresa May has said wiping out the budget deficit, not higher public-sector pay, is her priority – claiming that to let spending rip would risk a Greece-style collapse. The Prime Minister echoed George Osborne by invoking the economic crisis that struck Greece to insist on a tight grip on spending, despite fierce pressure to ease up on austerity.

    Cabinet ministers are in near-open revolt, demanding Ms May lift the harsh one per cent public sector pay cap, as well as find extra money for education. But, answering Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons, she refused to budge – instead mounting her strongest defence yet of the economic policies she inherited.

    She told Jeremy Corbyn: “Let me remind the right honourable gentleman what happens when you don’t deal with the deficit. It’s not a theoretical issue. In Greece, where they haven’t dealt with the deficit, what did we see with failure to deal with the deficit? Spending on the health service cut by 36 per cent. That doesn’t help nurses or patients.”

    July 6, 2017 Reply
  7. Sri Sriprasad Consultants Urological Surgeon

    There is a nursing recruitment crisis and a very significant decrease in the number going into nursing. This is also true of allied health professionals.

    With 1% pay cap it is a ‘pay cut ‘in real terms. The morale of the NHS is low and something needs to be done soon!

    July 6, 2017 Reply
  8. Roger Kirby Professor of Urology

    Household living standards seem to be falling at their fastest pace since 2011 as the surge in inflation since last June’s Brexit vote hits home, data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) confirmed yesterday.

    Real household disposable income per head in the first quarter of 2017 was 2 per cent lower than in the same quarter a year earlier. It was the biggest annual decline on this measure since a 3 per cent fall in the final quarter of 2011, when the eurozone crisis was raging and consumer price inflation had spiked above 5 per cent. There were also falls in the two previous quarters.

    July 7, 2017 Reply
  9. Roger Kirby Professor of Urology

    The stalling of pay over the past nine years is a huge fact of British politics, and one which the Prime Minister failed to notice when she called last month’s election. Most people’s pay was rising, briefly, at the time of the 2015 election, which may help to explain why David Cameron unexpectedly won. But by 8 June inflation and the cap on public sector wage rises meant that for most voters real pay was falling, which may help to explain why Theresa May unexpectedly lost her majority.

    A poll reported in The Independent today helps to explain how May misjudged the public mood. It finds that 56 per cent of British people say they are willing to pay more in tax to give a pay rise to police officers, paramedics and nurses – twice as many as say they are not. Conservative voters are just as willing as any others to pay more tax to lift the public sector pay cap.

    July 16, 2017 Reply
  10. Roger Kirby

    The 1 per cent cap on public sector pay rises has been attacked by the Government’s own experts, who warned the ability to fill jobs “could deteriorate rapidly”. The body which advises on salaries paid to some NHS managers, military officers and top civil servants warned it could not “operate effectively” with its hands tied so tightly by ministers.

    It questioned the “value in having an independent body” with the 1 per cent limit in place – also highlighting how staff are becoming “frustrated and demotivated”. The strong criticism came amid the first evidence of the pay cap beginning to crumble, after senior Cabinet ministers joined calls for it to be lifted.

    Damian Green, the effective deputy prime minister, agreed that pay review bodies will be able to lift pay above 1 per cent for some staff, provided overall budgets are not busted. But the senior civil servants’ union, the FDA, immediately rejected the idea, warning it would fail to tackle the growing problems identified by the pay review body.

    July 19, 2017 Reply
  11. Roger Kirby Professor of Urology

    More than 86,000 NHS posts were vacant in the first quarter of this year, figures for England suggest.

    Statistics from NHS Digital, which collates data, shows the number of vacancies climbed by almost 8,000 between January and March 2017 compared to the same period last year. Nurses and midwives accounted for the highest proportion of shortages, with 11,400 vacant posts in March.

    The data includes job adverts published on the NHS Jobs website between February 2015 and March 2017. The figures suggest there were 30,613 full-time equivalent vacancies in England advertised on the website in the month March 2017 – the highest month on record since collection of this type of data began in February 2015.

    Nursing and midwifery vacancies have topped the list since these figures have been collated. The data includes adverts for doctors, dentists, administrative, clerical staff and technical and scientific staff. The figures do not include vacancies for GPs or practice staff.

    July 25, 2017 Reply
  12. Roger Kirby Professor of Urology

    More than 86,000 NHS posts were vacant in the first quarter of this year, figures for England suggest.

    Statistics from NHS Digital, which collates data, shows the number of vacancies climbed by almost 8,000 between January and March 2017 compared to the same period last year. Nurses and midwives accounted for the highest proportion of shortages, with 11,400 vacant posts in March.

    The data includes job adverts published on the NHS Jobs website between February 2015 and March 2017. The figures suggest there were 30,613 full-time equivalent vacancies in England advertised on the website in the month March 2017 – the highest month on record since collection of this type of data began in February 2015.

    Nursing and midwifery vacancies have topped the list since these figures have been collated. The data includes adverts for doctors, dentists, administrative, clerical staff and technical and scientific staff. The figures do not include vacancies for GPs or practice staff.

    July 25, 2017 Reply
  13. Roger Kirby Professor of Urology

    Theresa May has been accused of overseeing “an unprecedented workforce crisis in the NHS“ after it emerged staff vacancies have risen by more than 10 per cent in the past year, with tens of thousands of posts left unfilled.

    Official figures revealed that in March this year there were 30,613 vacant full-time positions advertised by NHS England – up from 26,424 in the same month in 2016 and 26,406 in 2015.

    Labour said the Prime Minister was taking health service staff for granted and warned that a repeat of last winter’s chaotic scenes, which saw A&E patients lined up on trolleys for hours, would be “simply intolerable”.

    Nearly 40 per cent of the vacancies in March 2017 were for NHS nursing and midwifery positions, of which there were 11,485 adverts in total. The average nursing or midwifery role is only drawing three applications, the figures show.

    Nurses said the true number of unfilled jobs is “far higher than the number of online adverts”, citing a figure of 40,000 in England alone, and warned patient safety is suffering as people are put off the profession by “low pay, relentless pressure and new training costs”.

    July 26, 2017 Reply
  14. Roger Kirby Professor of Urology

    Nearly twice as many senior nurses left the profession last year than during the same period three years ago, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has said.

    In the past 12 months, 591 nurses who had been working for 10 years or more decided to quit, compared to 323 in the same months in 2013-14. Janet Davies, the RCN’s chief executive, said “staff shortages, relentless pressure and poor pay” were to blame for the apparent exodus of experienced nurses revealed by analysis of the organisation’s membership data.

    “When these people leave nursing, they are taking years of knowledge and hands-on experience with them,” she said. “Patients get the best care when the most experienced nurses work alongside the newly trained. That practice is now at risk.”

    The news comes after official figures showed staff vacancies across the NHS have risen by more than 10 per cent in the last year, with nearly 40 per cent of unfilled positions for nursing and midwifery jobs. In March 2017, 30,613 vacant full-time positions were advertised by NHS England – up from 26,424 in the same month in 2016 and 26,406 in 2015.

    July 27, 2017 Reply
  15. Roger Kirby Professor Roger Kirby

    NHS staff vacancies have risen by more than 10 per cent in the last year, official figures have shown, with more than 86,000 vacancies advertised in the first quarter of this year. Nearly 40 per cent of these empty positions in March 2017 were for nursing and midwifery positions, with the average role in these fields only drawing three applications. The Royal College of Nursing has blamed low pay, pressure and training costs for staffing levels, which they say “are reaching crisis point”.

    July 29, 2017 Reply
  16. Roger Kirby Professor of Urology

    The Government has been accused of refusing to publish more than 50 “secret” studies in the impact of Brexit – for fear they could cause embarrassment to ministers. Brexit minister David Jones confirmed in a letter that the Department for Exiting the European Union had “conducted analysis of over 50 sector of the economy”.

    But ministers are so far resisting calls to publish the findings of the investigations in full – arguing that some findings “would undermine the Government’s ability to negotiate the best deal for Britain” were they made public. It comes after one leaked piece of research by the Department of Health found that Brexit could cause a shortage of more than 40,000 nurses by 2026.

    August 15, 2017 Reply
  17. Roger Kirby Professor of Urology

    Less than two-thirds of trainee GPs plan to be working in an NHS general practice just six months after completing their training, according to a new survey which highlights the low morale among new recruits. The NHS has become a routine target for the right-wing press and some of the trainees complained that “constant GP bashing in the media” was influencing patients’ views.

    A paper about the study in the journal BMJ Open warned that “perceptions about workload pressure and morale” during work placements in surgeries were having a negative effect on trainees. The researchers wrote: “About a third of participants described an intention to be working outside NHS general practice. “At six months post-completion of training, 62.8 per cent expected to be working in the NHS in a salaried, locum or other non-principal GP role, reducing to 33.9 per cent at five years.”

    August 17, 2017 Reply
  18. Roger Kirby Professor of Urology

    A majority of the public believe the public sector pay cap has been unjustifiable and believe now is the time to remove restraints on workers’ wages, according to new polling for The Independent.

    It comes as Downing Street said earlier this week that the seven-year public sector pay cap is to be scrapped, unveiling a 1.7 per cent hike for prison officers and improvements totalling 2 per cent in policy pay for 2017-18. It is expected that ministers will announce further rises for other workers in the public sector at the Chancellor’s Budget in November.

    Asked about the restraints on public sector pay since 2010, 51 per cent of those polled said they have been unjustified while just 26 per cent said the Government had been justified in using the austerity measures. A larger majority – 62 per cent – said now is the “right time” to lift the restraints on workers’ pay in the public sector with just 14 per cent agreeing with the statement “it is not the right time”.

    But the poll also highlights that the Prime Minister has limited political capital to gain from lifting the cap, with more people interpreting the end of the contentious policy as a victory for the Labour leader.

    It also follows an embarrassing defeat over a Labour motion in the Commons calling for higher wages for NHS staff and an end to the public sector pay cap.

    September 17, 2017 Reply
  19. Roger Kirby Professor of Urology

    Public services will struggle to recruit and retain the staff they need unless ministers ease the restraint on pay, a leading economic think tank has warned. A report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found average public sector earnings had fallen by 4 per cent in real terms since 2009-10 under the coalition and Conservative governments.

    While private sector pay was hit even harder in the immediate aftermath of the financial crash of 2008, the gap between public and private had since returned to pre-crisis levels. Continuing pay restraint for public sector workers would, therefore, take their pay to “historically low levels” compared to their private sector counterparts, the report said.

    The situation is particularly acute among highly educated professionals and workers in London and the South East where the pay gap with the private sector is greatest.

    September 20, 2017 Reply
  20. Roger Kirby Professor of Urology

    Jeremy Hunt has confirmed the NHS pay cap has been “scrapped”, but without revealing whether staff will get awards to match rising inflation. The Health Secretary became the first cabinet minister to use the word, after Theresa May said only that “flexibility” would be allowed from next year.

    However, Mr Hunt did not say whether he expected future pay awards to be at or above inflation – now running at almost 3 per cent. Asked whether the NHS would be “fully funded” by the Treasury for higher pay, he alarmed Labour MPs by replying: “That is something I can’t answer right now.”

    The Chancellor was demanding “productivity improvements” that would have to be “agreed at the same time”, Mr Hunt told MPs. When the pay cap was lifted for police and prison staff last month, the awards fell well short of inflation – and organisations were ordered to find the cash from their own resources.

    During health questions in the Commons, Mr Hunt claimed: “Without pay restraint, we wouldn’t have 11,300 more doctors in the NHS, 11,300 more nurses in our wards. But you will be aware that we recognise it wasn’t sustainable to carry on with the 1 per cent going forward and that’s why next year we’ve been given the leeway to have more flexible negotiations.” Questioned by Labour MPs, the Health Secretary added: “I can give you good news – the pay cap has been scrapped.”

    The possibility that the NHS will not receive extra funding to pay staff more will alarm health service leaders, already warning of a growing funding gap running to many billions. On whether the Treasury would provide the money, Mr Hunt said: “The fact is that we have that flexibility – and I hope we can get that win-win as a result.”

    October 11, 2017 Reply

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