Boris Johnson claimed recruiting more nurses was “crucial for the wellbeing” of hospital staff – brushing off criticism over his government’s proposed 1% pay rise for NHS workers.
He told a Downing Street briefing: “On your point about nurses, I would stress, first of all, the gratitude that I think everybody feels towards the nursing profession and all health and social care workers.
“One of the most important things that nurses tell me they want to see is more nurses to help them on the wards, to help them cope with the pandemic and everything else.
“There are 10,000 more now this year than there were last year and that’s a good thing. There’s also a big increase in recruitment, by the way, I think it’s up something like 36%.
“I understand, of course that the whole sector has been under massive pressure and that’s why we are investing colossally on top of the £140 billion annually that we give to the NHS, an extra £62 billion to support the NHS.
“And above all to help boost that recruitment drive that I think is really crucial for the wellbeing of nurses across the country, in addition of course to the 12.8% pay increase that they got (in) the most recent round.”
Earlier Health Secretary Matt Hancock dodged a grilling on the pay rise row, sending a junior minister to answer an urgent question in the Commons in his place.
Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “I am grateful for the minister (Helen Whately), but where is the Secretary of State? Why isn’t the Secretary of State here to defend a Budget that puts up tax for hardworking family and cuts pay for hardworking nurses?”
Ms Whately said: “In these difficult times, the Government has submitted its evidence to the pay review bodies and, as I said in my opening statement, those pay review bodies will report back to us.”
She added: “The pay review bodies will look at a wide range of evidence, including, for instance, evidence from the trade unions, the situation of inflation and also the wider situation with the economy and pay levels.
“They will report back and we will, of course, look at their recommendations very carefully.”
She said the Government “will continue to invest in more doctors and more nurses for the NHS”.