Matt Hancock was defending the increase to MP members of the Health Select Committee. He spoke as research showed that the UK’s health and social care system needed a £12billion “booster shot” to be fit for purpose. Mr Hancock was asked why the rise was just one percent when the NHS 10-year plan made a 2.1 percent provision for annual pay increases for NHS workers.
He replied: “The NHS was carved out of the pay freeze that has been applied – due to the enormous pressure on the public finances – to everyone else in the public sector.”
And Mr Hancock added: “Inflation is below one percent and therefore a proposed one percent pay rise is indeed a pay rise and that’s simply a matter of fact.”
Responding to that, Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said Mr Hancock knew full well the Office for Budget Responsibility has forecast inflation will reach 1.5 percent this year.
Nurses are preparing to strike over the pay offer, with a £35million strike fund set up by the Royal College of Nursing to support industrial action.
Mr Hancock spoke as research was released calling for an extra £12billion a year to be pumped into the UK’s health and social care system in order to recover from the damage done by Covid.
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said the NHS sat “on the very edge of a precipice of a whole decade of severe health disruption”.
The think tank’s State Of Health And Care report found that the pandemic has undone years of progress tackling major illnesses.
If left unaddressed, this threatens to cause a decade of disruption to prevention, diagnosis and treatments, it said.
Chris Thomas, IPPR senior research fellow, said: “We have among the lowest numbers of nurses, doctors and long-term care workers per capita.
“We face thousands more cancer deaths and 12,000 more heart attacks and strokes in the coming years. The number of people with mental ill health or multiple, chronic conditions is rising sharply.
“We are on the very edge of a precipice of a whole decade of severe health disruption.
“Now is no time to be timid. We urge the government to give the NHS the boost it so desperately needs, and to protect the nation’s health in the decade to come.”
To recover the elective backlog and manage the mental health surge caused by the pandemic, will cost an extra £2.2billion per year for the next five years. However, the think tank calculates that a further £10.1billion of investment would be needed annually.
Among a range of stark findings, there were figures showing an additional 4,500 avoidable cancer deaths are expected this year.
It said among immediate policy priorities should be the guarantee of a living wage for all care workers through government wage subsidy, similar to the furlough scheme, at a cost of £1billion.