NHS Pay

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:03 pm on 13th September 2017.

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Photo of Jon Ashworth Jon Ashworth Shadow Secretary of State for Health 1:03 pm, 13th September 2017

I have given way to the hon. Lady once and I have been generous, so I hope she will forgive me if I do not give way again.

We have heard several examples of what vacancies in the NHS mean for services. We have heard about the walk-in centre in Wirral, but Macmillan Cancer Support warned last week that bigger workloads and vacancies in key roles are creating “unrelenting pressure” on the cancer care workforce and that some cancer patients are attending A&E because they cannot get help elsewhere. I have mentioned midwifery, and this summer we revealed that almost half of maternity units closed their doors to patients at some point in 2016, with understaffing often used as the justification. Earlier this year, I revealed FOI requests that showed a rising number of cancelled children’s operations, with 38% of trusts citing workforce shortages as the reason for those cancelled operations. Visit any hospital and doctors will talk about rota gaps, and the latest NHS staff survey reveals that 47% of staff view current staffing levels as insufficient to allow them to do their job properly.

Not only is the pay cap unfair on hard-working staff who are struggling to make ends meet, but it is unfair on patients, who suffer the direct consequences of under-staffed, overstretched services. We look forward to the Health Secretary telling us how he will use his newfound flexibility. We look forward to his telling us what remit he will set for the NHS Pay Review Body in the coming days. He has had all summer to think through his response to these demands. I know that he got into a big argument with Professor Stephen Hawking, but we will leave that there. The Health Secretary sets the remit—he tells the pay review body what it is able to provide—so we look to him to tell us what he is going to ask it to provide. We want him to tell us today when he will publish the remit letter.