Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Newspaper column 28 March - More good news for our NHS

The NHS is one of our nation’s greatest assets and so it was good to hear a number of really positive announcements over the last week.

Firstly, on Wednesday the Secretary of State announced that more than one million NHS staff, including nurses, porters and paramedics, are being offered pay increases of at least 6.5% - with some getting as much as 29% over the next three years.

Following years of a 1% cap on pay rises for the public sector I am pleased that as promised the cap has now been lifted to enable these rises to be offered. The deal has been formally agreed by union leaders and ministers last Wednesday and staff will now be asked to vote on the deal, with rises backdated to April if they agree by the summer.

The deal is tiered with the lowest-paid in each job receiving the biggest rise and covers all staff on NHS’s Agenda for Change contract - about 1.3m across the UK, with over half receiving more than a 9% increase.

The lowest full-time salary - paid to cleaners, porters and catering staff - will rise by 15% to more. These groups will get an immediate £2,000 rise this year increasing the basic minimum starting salary.

I am delighted that these substantial rises are able to be offered to our hard working and dedicated NHS staff and especially that the lowest paid will be receiving the greatest increases.

As well as this announcement, last week the Government set out full details of 1,500 new medical school places and the creation of five brand new medical schools to help train the next generation of NHS staff.

The expansion of medical training places is just one aspect of the Government’s commitment to the expansion and retention of our NHS workforce, having also announced 5,000 additional nurse training places every year from September 2018 and a new debt-free apprenticeship route into nursing.

Meanwhile, this weekend, the Government announced that three thousand extra midwives are to be trained over the next four years in the largest-ever increase of maternity staff in England.

These plans will include the introduction of a "continuity of carer" model, which will see expectant mothers treated by the same midwives throughout their pregnancy, and will start with a target of one in five women benefitting from the model by March next year.

The Government’s goal is for the NHS to be the safest, highest quality healthcare system in the world that continues to be delivered free for all at the point of need. This latest step forward demonstrates the Government’s continuing commitment to the NHS, ensuring it has the workforce to continue to deliver safe, compassionate care for all our citizens.

These investments in our NHS are only able to be made due to the careful management of our public spending and economy. Without a strong and growing economy we would not be able to generate the income that enables the Government to make these commitments for our future.  

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