RPT - NHS Advocacy Group Slams UK Government's Proposed 1% Pay Rise For Health Staff

RPT - NHS Advocacy Group Slams UK Government's Proposed 1% Pay Rise for Health Staff

MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 06th March, 2021) The UK government's proposal to offer National Health Service (NHS) workers a below-inflation pay rise of one percent in light of their efforts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic is "absurd," John Puntis, the co-chair of advocacy group Keep Our NHS Public, told Sputnik in an interview on Friday.

The Department of Health and Social Care made the recommendation in a Thursday submission to the NHS Pay Review Body, the independent panel that advises on salaries for the health service.

Nadine Dorries, the minister for mental health, said during a series of media interviews on Friday that the government could not afford to offer health workers any more, although her remarks came two days after finance minister Rishi Sunak announced a further 15 billion pound ($20.7 billion) investment in the country's privatized coronavirus contact tracing system.

"I think to say they can only afford one percent is absurd when they've shown that they can afford billions on middlemen in contracts for PPE [personal protective equipment] that's unusable, the fantastical amounts of money that have been spent on privatized test and trace, and the huge amount of money that's been spent on management consultants," Puntis remarked.

The Keep Our NHS Public co-chair said that the UK public has stood firmly behind health workers throughout the pandemic, and accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other Conservative ministers of hypocrisy.

"It looks increasingly hypocritical to see those pictures and videos of Boris Johnson and other senior Tories out clapping for the evening clap for the NHS but then saying they can't afford anything other than a one percent pay rise," Puntis remarked.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN), which has called for a 12.5 percent pay rise for nurses, also slammed the government's pay increase plans, noting in a Thursday press release that it would lead to experienced nurses receiving a mere 3.50 Pounds ($4.84) extra per week in take-home pay.

"It's really nothing, as the RCN pointed out, this would translate into 3.50 pounds a week extra for a nurse. It's nothing. It's actually less than the rate of inflation," Puntis stated.

On Friday, the RCN announced that it would immediately set up an industrial action fund worth 35 million pounds ($48 million) that could be used to support workers should a strike be called.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said earlier in the day that the government's pay offer to health workers was an "insult."