I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that when deciding policy on pay we absolutely have to look at the impact on recruitment and retention, and that if we are going to deal with the pressures of an ageing population in the way that he and I would both want, we are going to need to recruit many more doctors and nurses for the NHS over the years ahead.
The progress that we have made in the NHS in improving outcomes for patients, despite the huge pressure on the frontline, is possible because of the brilliant staff we have in the NHS. I want to recognise that pay restraint has been extremely challenging, which is why yesterday my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury announced a new policy, allowing Departments flexibility where there are recruitment and retention issues, and where productivity savings can be found. We will also honour the commitment we made prior to yesterday’s announcement, which was that before we take any decisions we will listen to the independent advice of the pay-review bodies.
To value staff also means to look at non-pay issues as well. It means we should look at making sure that we are training enough staff, so that when hospitals have the budgets to employ staff, they are there for them to employ; it means we should look at flexible working—on which, frankly, the NHS can do a lot better—if we are to tackle the agency bill that the shadow Health Secretary spoke about; it means we should put in place measures to encourage nurses to return to practice, which is why Health Education England is increasing the number of return-to-practice training places to 1,250 from 2019-20; it means we should look at new support roles for nurses, such as the 2,000 nurse associates who are starting training this year; and it means we should look at new routes into nursing, such as the nurse apprentice route that we are opening this year.