Government letter indicates 2% NHS pay offer ‘likely’

Unite says NHS pay review body's independence compromised after 12 years of carrying out Tory bidding

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A recent letter from Steve Barclay, secretary of state for health and social care, to the NHS Pay Review Body (NHSPRB), gives the strongest indication yet that NHS staff will be offered a two per cent pay rise for 2023.

The letter, dated 16 November, states that ‘in the current economic context, it is particularly important that you also have regard to the government’s inflation target when forming recommendations’. The government’s inflation target is two per cent.

The NHSPRB has carried out 12 years of real terms pay cuts to NHS workers’ wages on behalf of successive Conservative governments, with the latest, led by Rishi Sunak, delivering more rounds of austerity.

Unite, which represents over 100,000 NHS workers, said that given the NHSPRB’s record, it was clear that supposed independence of the body had been compromised.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “The NHSPRB board are clearly aware that without proper wages the exodus of healthcare staff will get worse, putting the very survival of the NHS at risk.

“But the 12 years of brutal wage cuts for NHS workers show that the NHSPRB’s independence has been severely compromised,” she added. “It’s clear that it now exists just to do the government’s bidding.

“That’s why Steve Barclay’s warning to heed the two per cent inflation target is the clearest indication yet that NHS staff should expect a two per cent pay offer and for the fires engulfing the health service to become an inferno. The situation is clear: We are in a fight to save the NHS and workers are ready to take a stand.”

Unite has begun balloting nearly 10,000 health service workers for strike action on top of thousands of other NHS workers who it has been balloting since October. Unite is also planning to ballot thousands more in the coming months.

By Ryan Fletcher