NHS staff do a great job in extremely difficult circumstances and I believe that they are well overdue a pay rise.
The determination, professionalism and compassion of staff comes against the backdrop of years of pay restraint. The Royal College of Nursing believes that, since 2010, there has been a real-terms drop in earnings of 14% for its members and has said that some nursing staff are now relying on foodbanks and second jobs to make ends meet. I appreciate the big personal impact that the pay freeze is having on some of those affected. I met Janet Davies of the RCN and nurses who had come to Westminster to talk to MPs about this issue.
I am concerned that pay restraint has also caused severe problems in health recruitment, as young people are put off joining health professions and others simply cannot afford to continue. The dependency on agency staff in the NHS has also strengthened the case for a pay increase.
On 30 January 2017, Parliament debated an online petition, signed by more than 100,000 people, on the pay restraint imposed on Agenda for Change NHS staff. I agree with the petition and I support a return to public sector pay agreed through the evidence of independent pay review bodies. My Health team colleague, Justin Madders, responded to that debate for Labour.
The Conservative Minister stated in the debate that it has provided evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body and expects its recommendations in the coming weeks. I hope it listens to the concerns that have been raised, as I believe that nursing staff, paramedics, midwives and others who care for us should be paid at a level which recognises their skill, training and dedication.