POLITICS
24/03/2021 12:14 GMT

Low Pay Is 'Rarely Mentioned' By Nurses, Claims Health Minister Helen Whately

NHS staff instead want "more colleagues" and to be able to "take time off", she told MPs.

PA Media
Helen Whately

Getting a pay rise is “rarely mentioned” by nurses, health minister Helen Whately has claimed.

The government is under pressure to increase its offer of a 1% pay rise for NHS staff given the pressure they have been under during the Covid pandemic.

Boris Johnson has hinted he could make a bigger offer when the independent pay review body, which will examine the merits of the pay rise, reports back.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has said nurses deserve a 12.5% increase and has warned a 1% rise would lead to staff quitting. The starting salary for most newly-qualified nurses is £24,907.

But Whately, the care minister, said on Wednesday what NHS staff wanted most was “more colleagues”, not a bigger salary.

“I have had many conversations with NHS staff, from porters, healthcare assistants, nurses, allied healthcare professionals, junior doctors and consultants both during the pandemic and many years before,” she told MPs during a debate in parliament’s Westminster Hall.

“I have asked any times what would help, what do staff most want. I will say from those conversations that pay is rarely mentioned.”

In response to laughter from another MP,  Whately added: “I am describing many, many conversations I have had over many years with NHS staff, including during the pandemic.

“The thing that is most often mentioned to me is staff want more colleagues.

“They want more staff working alongside them so they can have more time to care and to give patients the care they want to provide.”

Whately said NHS workers wanted to “feel genuinely supported and valued in their work”.

“They would like more autonomy in their jobs and to be able to really make a difference and make improvements in the area they work in.

“And most recently staff have told me how much they want to be able to take time off, to have some time to spend with their families, some time to recover and recuperate from the stresses and strains from the pandemic.”

Keir Starmer has put giving NHS workers a “proper pay rise” at the centre of his local election campaign.

Labour has said the increase should be “at least” 2.1%. The party had campaigned for a 5% pay rise at the 2019 general election.