A Slow Clap for the NHS; Reception of the 1% Pay Rise
Meg Allan looks at the government’s promise of a 1% pay rise to NHS workers, its reception and how it compares to the rest of the UK.
After a year spent waving the rainbow blazoned banner, as we thank our front-line heroes for their service during this unprecedented time, it seems crass to put a price upon the unimaginable debt we owe the NHS. Yet monetarise it we have, and the value of our saving grace through the pandemic? 1% pay rise, for most an additional £3.50 a week.
How has this been decided? The 1% pay increase was a figure recommended to the NHS pay review board by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) for 2021-22. Previously in 2019 Sir Simon Stevens head of NHS England had recommended a 2.1% increase for this year, but the pay review board cited a now “uncertain” financial climate for the UK as basis for the new total of 1%.
The government has faced gruelling backlash for the approval of this total, with health unions branding it a “kick in the teeth” and slogans such as #Toryscum and #NHSpay15 trending across social media. The government have however stated that this figure is not immovable, and as peace talks are brokered to prevent an NHS strike, a new figure of 3% may now on the cards.
The government has faced gruelling backlash for the approval of this total, with health unions branding it a “kick in the teeth” and slogans such as #Toryscum and #NHSpay15 trending across social media.
Despite the criticism it has endured, a hat must be tipped to the large value of just 1% of the NHS pay roll. The NHS is no small investment, an estimated 1.3 million people work for the NHS in Britain, and currently a substantial £56.1 billion pounds (almost half the NHS’s annual budget) is spent on staffing costs. Whilst 1% seems but small, this does total £500 million extra expenditure this annum. In a country prophesising an inevitable recession, or at the least, more austerity, post COVID-19’s economic damage, can we afford to spend more than this? As Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng voiced on BBC question time, “No one is doubting the NHS has been absolutely first class in this whole pandemic. What I am suggesting is that the whole economy has been under huge pressure”. By contrast, to look at our fellow UK members in comparison, Scotland have agreed a one-off payment of £500 to all health and social care workers, they have also set an interim pay rise of 1% whilst they await a final decision, the Welsh government have not yet released a figure.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of what the government can afford to give the NHS at the moment, it is almost certain that the Government will have to bow to political reality and the loud voice of the union; up the pay, and pay up.