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Response to NHS pay offer

22 Jul 2021

In March the government recommended a miserable 1% pay increase for NHS staff. Ministers defended the decision saying this was as much as the country could afford. We believed this wholly inadequate, and particularly disappointing given the previous expectation of a 2.1% increase. As the College President commented at the time, this was not much of a ‘thank you’ to the staff who had worked tirelessly on the frontline, at great personal risk, fighting COVID-19. Along with other medical bodies, we hoped the independent pay review body would reject the government’s proposal, and recommend an above-inflation uplift.

This week, the review body recommended an award of 3%, which we welcome in view of the pay freezes in other parts of the public sector and the previous announcement. It is not though an overly generous award. More ‘keeping pace’ than a significant ‘thank you’. Also, it is important to note the award does not cover several essential staff groups that are key to the recovery of surgery. Notably surgical trainees and SAS doctors, who are party to a separate pay process. In respect of those not covered by this award, the announcement sets an important expectation that they too deserve improved awards for their tremendous public service during the pandemic. Finally, while annual pay awards are important, they must not become a substitute for long-term investment in staff wellbeing and support. A fully funded workforce plan to plug the vacancies and ensure staff wellbeing is still sorely needed.

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