Hunt confirms scrapping of NHS pay cap

Jeremy Hunt has confirmed that the seven-year cap on NHS staff wages will come to an end next year.

The health secretary said yesterday he had been given “leeway” to scrap the policy by chancellor Phillip Hammond but was unable to confirm whether the government would provide extra funding to pay for the increased cost.

The statement has been met with mixed reactions across NHS groups, with many looking to next month’s Budget for a verdict on increased funding.

Pressure had built on Hunt following the announcement last month that the pay cap for police officers would be scrapped and replaced with an immediate rise.

In response to the statement, Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “It is helpful to receive this confirmation from the secretary of state, which echoes the messages to the pay review bodies from his colleague the chief secretary to the Treasury.

“Employers will await further details in the budget and through the deliberations of the pay review bodies.

 “The NHS is clear however that additional investment is needed to support pay awards above the present pay cap,” Mortimer continued.

“We are also clear that alongside action that we are taking locally, national support is needed in other areas to improve both supply and retention.”

Saffron Cordery, the director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, commented:

“We were one of the first organisations to call for an end to the NHS pay cap so we welcome the health secretary’s comments. Pay has become one of several key factors affecting recruitment and retention in the NHS. Others include intolerable pressures at work and uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

“For year after year we have asked staff to do more for less. That situation has become unsustainable.

“However, we need a clear plan for the end to pay restraint. Pay accounts for up to 70 per cent of costs for NHS trusts. At a time when NHS finances are already overstretched, it is vital that any additional pay awards are fully funded, however that is done.”

GMB officials completely rejected the change, arguing that the rise in wages coupled with potentially no new funding would just lead to cuts across the NHS.

“Staff are struggling to cope as it is,” Kevin Brandstatter, GMB national officer, explained. “The NHS is in a desperate state as demand spirals and jobs losses could push it over the edge.

“If Jeremy Hunt is serious about increasing productivity he should urgently talk to the workforce about the investment that's urgently needed in facilities and training - otherwise patients' could be put at risk.”

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has repeatedly been critical of the controversial pay cap policy and have previously said that any new deal must make up for lost earnings.

The group saw the decision as a step forward but repeated calls that the next offer “must not come in below inflation.

Janet Davies, general secretary and CEO of the RCN, stated: “Jeremy Hunt has put beyond all doubt that the pay cap is scrapped after a summer-long campaign by the RCN.

“Our members in every corner of the UK fought hard and can be proud of this achievement.

“The next pay offer must not come in below inflation and ministers cannot ask the NHS to make other cuts to pay for it – services must be given extra funding to cover the cost.”

More details about whether the NHS will receive increased funding are expected at the Autumn Budget on 22 November.

Top image: Neil Hall and PA Wire

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