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Emma Lewell-Buck: Government should end empty promises on NHS

A hospital ward. Picture by Peter Byrne/PA Wire
A hospital ward. Picture by Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Ahead of the Budget experts said our health service required £4billion this year alone.

Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, warned that without the proper funding, waiting lists will reach five million, and the 18-week referral target could be permanently abandoned.

Ignoring all advice, the Chancellor announced during the recent Budget that the Government would give less than half the amount that is needed for the NHS.

The Budget was also a perfect opportunity to once and for all give our NHS staff the pay rise they deserve.

Sadly, yet again the Tories missed wide of the mark when it comes to public opinion.

During his Budget speech Mr Hammond stated “nurses deserve our deepest gratitude” and that the Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt is currently negotiating changes to NHS pay scales.

So any wage increase for our hard-working nurses would be recommended in “due course”.

But like most Tory promises, there’s a catch, the Chancellor only pledged a pay raise for nurses if Mr Hunt’s negotiations “bear fruit”.

Not content with dangling the carrot of a possible pay rise, the Tories have taken the option of blackmailing nurses, as the Government also said any pay increase would be “on the condition that the pay award enabled improved productivity in the NHS”.

Yet again the Government has taken NHS staff for granted and is asking them to do more for less, resulting in a recruitment and retention crisis which threatens patient care.

Nurses have suffered a 14% real-terms pay cut since 2010 and the Government’s decision to scrap student nurse bursaries has led to a fall in numbers on nursing degrees.

A recent survey by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) of almost 8,000 nurses revealed the shocking truth of the effects that the pay cap has had on nurses.

70% said they were financially worse off than they were five years ago, a quarter of those surveyed said they have taken on extra jobs to boost their income and, disturbingly, only 41% said they would recommend their career to others - the lowest level in over a decade.

But it’s not just nurses who the Tories have left behind; Labour believe a pay rise for all public sector workers, is fair and affordable.

Labour’s 2017 manifesto pledged to end the public sector pay cap and make a return to public sector pay being agreed through collective bargaining and the evidence of independent pay review bodies.

Labour also recently tabled amendments in the House of Commons which called on the Government to give public sector workers a fair pay rise.

But, true to form, the Government opposed it and voted it down.

It should shame this Government that our public sector workers, who keep us safe, who provide vital services we all rely on, are struggling to make ends meet and are being pushed out of their careers because they can’t pay their bills at the end of the month.

The Government should stop with the empty promises and hollow warm words and start taking action.