Health secretary says he has sympathy for case made on NHS pay, signalling that 1% annual limit on rises may end.
Jeremy Hunt has hinted that the pay cap for NHS nurses might be lifted in recognition of their “absolutely brilliant” work, as ministers ponder whether to relax austerity across the public sector.
The health secretary signalled that the government might scrap its current policy, which is to limit nurses to 1% salary increases every year until 2020. He intends to discuss the situation with the chancellor, Philip Hammond, who is under pressure to ease the seven-year squeeze on public sector pay, which nurses say has seen their income drop by £3,000 since 2010.
“I have a great deal of sympathy for the case that nurses amongst others have made on the issue of pay. I think they do an absolutely brilliant job,” Hunt told about 1,000 senior NHS managers at the annual conference of the NHS Confederation, which represents hospital trusts.
Hunt praised the NHS’s 270,000 nurses for working large amounts of unpaid overtime. “There is an enormous amount of goodwill, enormous amount of time given free of charge, because people care about their jobs and they see it not as a job, but as a vocation,” he said.
The chancellor would decide whether or not the cap was lifted, and “we have our budgets that we have to live within,” Hunt stressed. But, he added: “I have had a very constructive letter from Janet Davies, [the] head of the Royal College of Nursing, since I came back into office. I will be meeting with her and I will make sure that our conversation is reflected back to the chancellor before he makes that decision.”