Boris Johnson is facing fresh demands to pay nurses fairly, with the leader of the UK’s nursing union calling on the government to reward frontline staff for their efforts during the pandemic - rather than showering them with “claps, or medals or pin badges”.
The prime minister has not yet entered into discussions with NHS bosses over pay rises sought by health unions since July, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).
Earlier this year, health secretary Matt Hancock pledged that he would “fight” to ensure nurses were given a “fair reward” for their work - yet this group were excluded from NHS pay rises announced by the Treasury in July.
In a virtual speech set to be delivered today to the RCN’s annual conference, Dame Donna Kinnair is set to call on the government to “pay us fairly for the tough job we do”.
Dame Donna will also tell the conference that the pandemic has demonstrated the complexities of modern nursing to a wider audience while “shattering” outdated perceptions of nursing as a vocation for women.
To coincide with the speech, the RCN is releasing its formal submission to the government’s anticipated Comprehensive Spending Review next month. The document sets out the moral, political and economic case for a 12.5 per cent pay rise for NHS nursing staff.
“The public’s support for nursing staff this year has been incredible. They displayed it in their millions every Thursday evening for months. It was heartening for our members and all key workers to know they had the public’s support and appreciation. Many told me they felt buoyed by it,” Dame Donna will say.
“The clapping by politicians was fine too until it sounded all too hollow. Back in the summer, we asked Boris Johnson to start talking to us about a fair pay rise. And do you know what he said? Absolutely nothing. Not even the courtesy of a reply, from the Prime Minister, to 14 health unions asking him to bring forward pay discussions.
“Some of his colleagues tried to tell us we’d just had a rise. One even said there were other priorities.
“Before they get any ideas this winter, I have something simple to say to Boris Johnson. We don’t want claps, or medals or pin badges – this time, just pay us fairly for the tough job we do.”
The comments come as Sir Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, warned of the strain facing the NHS after a “disturbing” increase in coronavirus infection rates and hospital admissions.
Speaking at a virtual conference of NHS leaders, Sir Simon warned the numbers of patients in hospital had increased from a few hundred a month ago to almost 3,000 on Wednesday.
He told hospital leaders an “agile” local response would be needed, adding that 2020 had “without doubt been the most challenging year in the history of the national health service”.
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