NHS workers do a great job in difficult circumstances and I believe that a pay rise is overdue for them. I and my Labour colleagues support a return to public sector pay being agreed through the evidence of pay review bodies.
The determination, professionalism and compassion of staff continues against the backdrop of years of pay restraint, and in March the NHS Pay Review Body recommended a further 1% pay increase for NHS staff from 1 April 2017.
In 2015 the Government announced a maximum pay increase of 1% in public sector pay lasting until 2019-20. I do not believe that this is sustainable. The report from the NHS Pay Review Body claims that the pay cap is "coming under stress" and highlights that staff have "concerns about the quality of care they can give, and feel that they are not valued."
Health unions maintain that since 2010 there has been a real-terms drop in earnings of 14% for its members and have said that some nursing staff are now relying on foodbanks and second jobs to make ends meet. I appreciate the big personal impact the pay freeze is having on some of those affected in our area.
I am concerned that pay restraint has caused severe problems in health recruitment, as young people are put off joining health professions and others simply cannot afford to continue. The NHS's dependency on agency staff has also strengthened the case for a pay increase.
I believe it is time that the NHS pay cap was lifted so that the nursing staff, paramedics, midwives and other key NHS workers, in our constituency and across the country, are paid at a level which recognises the skill and dedication which they bring to their jobs.