Covid-19 has highlighted the incredible work that NHS staff do to care for the public and keep them safe. This week we have read that Boris Johnson has nominated NHS workers for a Pride of Britain Award to recognise their dedication. We should absolutely be immensely proud of our NHS and its staff.
However, this seems like a very hollow gesture - much like the pin badges handed out or ministers clapping outside Downing Street - when Boris Johnson doesn’t support a meaningful pay rise for NHS staff. Our own MPs Anthony Browne and Lucy Frazier voted, along with their Conservative colleagues, against a pay rise for nurses earlier this year.
Since 2010, NHS workers have lost one fifth of their wages in real terms. As a result, many of them are now struggling to make ends meet. In recent years, we have seen them turning to food banks, unable to afford their rent, or forced to take on extra shifts just to get by.
Alongside this, their workload and stress levels have been on the rise – and now they face a winter with the immense pressures of a second wave of the pandemic.
All this is causing too many healthcare workers to leave the jobs they love, creating a vicious cycle of understaffing, which means frontline staff are more overstretched than ever. In nursing, there were more than 44,000 vacancies in the NHS in England, even before Covid-19. A recent Royal College of Nursing survey found 36% of nursing staff consider leaving the profession, many citing low pay as a reason. This government needs to invest to ensure we can recruit and retain staff in the NHS.
Liberal Democrat MPs voted in support of a pay rise. Our manifesto committed to a 1p increase for every £1 of Income Tax to be able to invest in our NHS. We are now calling on the Chancellor to fund a pay rise for NHS staff in the upcoming spending review.
Now is the time to reward NHS staff with more than Pride of Britain Awards and to give them a pay rise that reflects the value of the work they do.
Ian Sollom, Lib Dem Parliamentary Spokesperson for South Cambs
Pippa Heylings, Lib Dem Parliamentary Spokesperson for South East Cambs