NHS workers and carers in Wales will get £735 one-off bonus as row continues over Government’s 1 per cent pay rise plan for health staff
- Vaughan Gething said the payment is not linked to any decision over a pay rise
- He said the one-off sum is for their ‘truly remarkable’ contribution during Covid
- It will see most staff take home £500 after tax and national insurance payments
- It comes a day after Matt Hancock defended the planned pay rise for NHS staff
NHS workers and carers in Wales will get £735 in a one-off bonus as the row continues over the Government’s one per cent pay rise plan for health staff.
The country’s health minister Vaughan Gething said the payment is not linked to any decision over a pay rise for them.
He said the one-off sum – which will see most workers take home £500 after tax and national insurance – is for their ‘truly remarkable’ contribution during the pandemic.
Welsh ministers are awaiting independent recommendations regarding the pay of health service staff, but Mr Gething said they are not seeking an ‘arbitrary cap’ like the one per cent increase recommended by the UK Government for staff in England.
It comes a day after Matt Hancock defended the planned pay rise for NHS staff, claiming it would not mean thousands of nurses are worse off than they are now.
The country’s health minister Vaughan Gething (pictured last week) said the payment is not linked to any decision over a pay rise for them
NHS workers staged protests over the proposed one per cent rise outside Downing Street last weekend
At Wednesday’s Welsh Government’s press briefing in Cardiff, Mr Gething said health and social care staff have made an ‘enormous effort’ keeping the country safe and the bonus reflects ‘our immense gratitude’.
He added: ‘I want to be clear, this is not linked to the current issue of NHS pay.
‘We in the Welsh Government have submitted our evidence to the independent pay review bodies without an arbitrary cap on pay, and we await their independent advice and recommendations.’
Mr Gething said there is heightened interest in the pay review bodies because the UK Government had chosen to ‘suppress NHS pay’ for staff in England.
Covid’s shocking impact on the NHS: Routine care is halved and cancer surgery is at a 10-year low
Treatment for non-Covid conditions halved in January as the NHS was engulfed by coronavirus patients, figures revealed yesterday.
Cancer surgery plummeted to its lowest level in ten years – with operations to remove tumours down 23 per cent compared to the same time in 2020.
Meanwhile, heart operations and procedures fell by 39 per cent according to NHS performance data.
Just 139,378 patients were admitted for routine NHS treatment such as knee or hip operations – a 54 per cent decrease from 304,888 in 2020.
Hospitals were forced to cancel thousands of operations due to the second wave of Covid-19 that saw 100,000 patients admitted with the virus in January alone.
Waiting lists for hospital treatment have now soared to 4.59million patients, the highest since records began. Of these, an astonishing 304,044 have been waiting more than a year. Just 1,643 had been waiting more than 52 weeks at the start of 2020.
The NHS’s progress at clearing the backlog from the first wave went into reverse during the surge over winter – which pushed hospitals to a breaking point.
Macmillan Cancer Support raised alarm over another significant drop in referrals for treatment and cancer diagnosis in January on top of the enormous backlog.
He added: ‘That has caused real anger, upset and a genuine sense of betrayal from NHS staff – people that we applauded on our streets for weeks and weeks on end, people who we say are heroes.
‘For NHS staff, it really does feel like a kick in the teeth for the UK Government to say there will only be a 1 per cent pay rise.’
The Welsh Government said the bonus is estimated to benefit almost 222,000 people, including staff working for NHS Wales, in primary and social care, and students deployed to help professionals.
It said it is working with local authorities and trade unions to finalise details of the scheme.
A £500 special payment for care home and domiciliary care workers was previously announced last May, but the Welsh Government was criticised for not topping up the amount to cover tax deductions – which the UK Treasury also refused to waive.
The latest bonus will be made available to a wider group of social care workers including local authority social services staff.
Mr Gething also said he had agreed to fund a pay uplift for NHS Wales’ lowest paid staff, which from April will bring their pay in line with the Living Wage Foundation’s recommended rate of £9.50 per hour.
Darren Hughes, director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, said: ‘We welcome the announcement of a one-off bonus payment for all NHS and social care staff in Wales, in recognition of their extraordinary contribution to the Covid-19 pandemic response over the last 12 months.
‘It’s vital that we all show how much we value and support them as we reset and rebuild services.’
British Medical Association Cymru Wales chair Dr David Bailey said: ‘We welcome this gesture as an acknowledgement of the hard work and dedication demonstrated by doctors and other NHS workers in Wales who have been stretched to the very limits during the Covid-19 pandemic.’
Paul Summers, Unison Cymru Wales lead officer for health, said the Welsh Government’s actions are ‘in stark contrast to the insulting approach of the Conservative UK Government to NHS and care staff’.
Richard Munn, Unite Wales lead officer for health, said the bonus is a ‘really positive gesture’, but he called for workers to receive an 15 per cent or £3,000 uplift in annual pay.
He said: ‘Unite welcomes the Welsh Government position that there should be no artificial cap.
‘We are urging the pay review body to ignore the UK Government’s request and make a recommendation based on the financial realities facing our members in the NHS.’
Yesterday UK Health Secretary Mr Hancock told MPs the one per cent rise, which sparked fury from unions and politicians, was all that was ‘affordable’.
But grilled at the Health and Social Care Committee over whether the offer was, as has been claimed by Labour, a real-terms pay cut, he insisted it was not.
Under questioning by former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, he said NHS workers had been ‘carved out’ of the pay freeze in the rest of the public sector to be awarded the one per cent rise.
Asked whether it was a pay increase or a real-terms pay cut, Mr Hancock added: ‘Inflation is below one per cent and therefore a proposed one per cent pay rise is indeed a pay rise and that’s simply a matter of fact.’
UK Consumer Price Index inflation is currently 0.5 per cent.
But the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has forecast it to hit 1.5 per cent later this year, meaning any pay increase below this will be swallowed up.
Shadow health and social care secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: ‘Matt Hancock knows full well that with the OBR expectations for inflation, he is imposing a pay cut on NHS staff in a pandemic.
‘Ministers should take this pay cut off the table and start talks with staff on a multi-year pay deal that reflects their worth and address recruitment and retention in the NHS.’
Under questioning by former health secretary Jeremy Hunt (pictured), he said that NHS workers had been ‘carved out’ of the pay freeze in the rest of the public sector to be awarded the 1 per cent rise
When asked by Mr Hunt why it was one per cent when the NHS 10-year plan made a 2.1 per cent provision for annual pay increases for NHS workers, Mr Hancock said: ‘The NHS was carved out of the pay freeze that has been applied due to the enormous pressure on the public finances, that has been applied to everyone else in the public sector.
‘We put in place evidence reflecting what is affordable and we of course will study what the pay review body says.’
Ministers have been softening their approach to the initial offer – submitted to an independent pay review board – in recent days as anger grew at the scale of the offer after a year in which the NHS has been front and centre in the fight against Covis-19.
Whitehall sources claimed last week officials were now contemplating trebling their offer to three per cent.
Unions had been demanding a 12 per cent pay hike, but NHS England boss Sir Simon Stevens said a 2.1 per cent bump – like staff were promised – would be a fair deal.
The Royal College of Nursing has claimed the rise would mean just £3.50 extra per week for a senior nurse.
The Mail has revealed nurses were always going to be in line for a bigger pay rise than one per cent, due to previously-agreed Government deal.
Thousands of NHS staff were due to get a 1.7 per cent increase to their wages this year, in the last piece of a three-year pay deal that has already boosted salaries by 12 per cent.
The extra 0.7 per cent is worth another £230 to someone on the average nurse’s salary of £33,000.
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