19% Pay Rise For Nurses Is 'Unaffordable', Keir Starmer Says

The Labour leader also backed Wes Streeting in his row with doctors' union the BMA.
Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer
Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer

Keir Starmer has said the 19% pay rise demanded by the nurses’ union is “more than can be afforded by the government”.

The Labour leader suggested he would not meet the Royal College of Nursing’s demands but hinted that he would be willing to work out a figure.

It comes as thousands of nurses are set to walk out of hospitals across England for the first time on Thursday in a dispute over pay.

Nurses have asked for a pay increase five points above inflation - which would equate to a 19% rise.

However, they have signalled that they would compromise for less, amid hopes of a deal over a 7.5% offer in Scotland.

Starmer said: “I think 19% is more than can be afforded by the government, but I would get around the table and negotiate something that works for both sides.

“Everybody I’ve spoken to in the NHS - and we’ve got a lot of people in our family and our friends who work in the NHS - nobody wants to take industrial action. Of course they don’t.

“What everybody wants is to use this, we’ve got Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday now, to say to the government, get around the table, show some leadership resolve this, because there’s a general sense whether it’s nurses or anything else, that Britain isn’t working under this government.”

Starmer also backed his shadow health secretary Wes Streeting who has sparked a war of words with the British Medical Association - the union supporting doctors and medical students.

Streeting said he has been “treated like a heretic” by the BMA over his calls for improvements to patient access.

The shadow health secretary vowed to take on those holding back the NHS and highlighted the “appalling” levels of access to GPs.

However, this sparked a backlash from the BMA’s GP committee which has accused the party of “demonising GPs who are trying their best to deliver care”.

Dr Emma Runswick, deputy chair of council at the BMA, called the Labour MP’s comments “incredibly disappointing”.

LBC presenter Nick Ferrari asked Starmer: “When Mr Streeting says and I quote ‘I think the BMA does doctors no favours when they vote for motions that look like they’re living on a different planet and worst of all, aren’t thinking about the best interests of patients’. Referring to the idea they want to reduce core hours to nine to five, again do you concur?”

The Labour leader replied: “I do agree and I spoke to Wes about it this morning, a very strong feeling that as we reform the NHS, we’ve got to think about working differently and simply saying surgery only between nine and five simply doesn’t fit with that pattern. Of course, it’s difficult.

“What I want to see from everybody as we go into reform, if we do as a Labour government, is a sort of can do attitude, which is OK, let’s be up for this.

“But it is going to have to be changed, intervening early, preventing earlier, we’ve got the ability to do it now, that has to be part of the change in the NHS.”


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