I would like to start by saying I am extremely grateful for the dedication of nursing staff in very difficult circumstances over the last three years. In particular, I appreciate the challenge of working in the NHS during the pandemic and through the current period when the demand for patient care is very high, has taken a significant toll on nurses.
The last few years have also amplified existing challenges in the nursing workforce, such as the ability to retain experienced nursing staff to continue working in the NHS. Extending flexible working is one way to alleviate these challenges in several professions, so that NHS staff have greater choice over their working patterns and achieve a better work-life balance.
As a result of talks between the Government, NHS employers and the unions, an offer was made for NHS staff (including nurses) to receive an additional pay rise of 2 per cent for 2022-23, on top of the 4 per cent increase awarded by the Government through the Independent Pay Review Body process. A "Backlog Bonus" of at least £1,250 will also be paid in recognition of the dedication and efforts of NHS staff during the pandemic and their role in cutting waiting lists.
For 2023-24, the Government offered NHS staff a 5 per cent consolidated increase in pay, worth at least £1,065. Alongside this, the Government will introduce measures to ensure safer staffing in hospitals, make the pension abatement rules introduced during the pandemic permanent and identify ways to tackle violence against NHS staff.
The Government has also provided a commitment to the RCN to address specific challenges around recruitment, retention and professional development in nursing, and will also consider a separate pay spine exclusively for nursing staff in 2024-25. You can read more here:
I note your concerns about the Government's proposals around minimum service levels for hospitals during industrial action. However, the last 12 months have seen significant disruption to patient care from industrial action, with more than 1 million appointments being rescheduled since December 2022.
The Government's proposals would require hospitals to provide the same level of care for patients requiring urgent or emergency treatment during a period of industrial action as on a non-strike day. For further context, this would mean that patients requiring urgent cancer treatment, requiring dialysis, or patients requiring a transplant where a potential donor match is identified can receive the treatment they need without being delayed by industrial action.
As you will know, the Department of Health and Social Care recently concluded a consultation on these measures, inviting views from patients, trade unions and other stakeholders which I shared here:
The Department is currently evaluating the responses to the consultation and will publish next steps in due course. Throughout, the Government’s approach has been focused on protecting the safety of both patients and staff. I will continue to follow developments closely and will keep my constituents updated.