Steve Barclay ‘concedes’ he will have to increase NHS pay offer to avoid strikes

The health secretary said any new pay rise would come out of the existing NHS budget

Furvah Shah
Friday 13 January 2023 08:45 GMT
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Mr Barclay’s U-turn comes in advance of nurses in England striking next week
Mr Barclay’s U-turn comes in advance of nurses in England striking next week (AP)

Health secretary Steve Barclay has privately conceded that he will have to offer a higher pay rise to NHS staff.

Mr Barclay has admitted that more than one million NHS staff members deserve more money despite previously insisting that existing pay increases were all the government could afford.

But, he also made clear that any new pay rises would come from the current health budget meaning potential cuts to key services, according to The Guardian.

His U-turn comes in advance of nurses in England staging two more strikes next week, which is likely to force hospitals to again work at a reduced capacity following previous industrial action.

In recent weeks, ambulance workers and nurses have all gone on strike over disputes about pay, funding and working conditions in the NHS causing major disturbance to health services, with junior doctors currently voting on whether to walk out.

According to sources, Mr Barclay will backtrack on his initial offer of £1,400 in the hope of preventing further disruption to NHS care and treatment.

“Ministers are intent on preventing further NHS strikes and understand that there will have to be the offer of extra support on the table for 2022-23,” a government source told The Guardian.

The source said that the Treasury was waiting for the health secretary to decide which NHS services should be cut in order to provide the pay increase, and once done, officials will assess whether going above initial offers will threaten the government’s plans to control inflation.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has previously ruled out providing any more money to fund pay rises for health workers and has told Barclay he will have to scale back the budget of either his own Department for Health and Social Care, or more likely, NHS England to fund a higher offer.

Ambulance workers on the picket line outside London Ambulance Service NHS Trust control room in Waterloo, London
Ambulance workers on the picket line outside London Ambulance Service NHS Trust control room in Waterloo, London (PA)

Union officials acknowledged the health secretary’s plans to fund an improved deal for NHS staff in the financial year, speaking of a change in the atmosphere between them and Mr Barclay on Monday.

“There does seem to be some seriousness on the part of the DHSC to find a solution now,” one official told The Guardian.

Despite the planned offer, Mr Barclay is unlikely to make any new proposals in time to prevent strikes by nurses in England next Wednesday and Thursday.

Unions are also preparing to escalate industrial action over pay, with the GMB union expected to announce early next week more walkouts by its members across ambulance services in England and Wales.

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