NHS Pay

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:54 pm on 13th September 2017.

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Photo of Philippa Whitford Philippa Whitford Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Health and Social Care) 1:54 pm, 13th September 2017

We have had many debates on the NHS in the House, and as I have said previously, the workforce is one of our biggest challenges, which is why it is so important to get this right. The debate is focused on NHS staff, but we are discussing all public sector workers. We are talking about all workers within the NHS: we must not only consider those at different grades, but not allow a separation between frontline and back-of-house staff. As a surgeon, if I turn up at a clinic and there are no case sheets and the patient has not been informed of their appointment, it is a totally pointless exercise. We need to realise that the NHS is a team, and if we do not look after the team, it will not work.

Obviously this all started with the crash. I will defend Members further along the Opposition Benches, because I get really bored with the Labour party being given responsibility for the crash. Labour did not have that degree of world domination. It was a world crash. At the time of the crash, it was right to look at public sector pay, because it is a big outlay. The reason given at the time was to avoid redundancies and keep people in their jobs. However, although in Scotland we have had no compulsory redundancies, there have been 20,000 NHS redundancies over the past seven years and more than 40,000 compulsory redundancies among public sector workers. That means that people in England had a pay freeze for three years and then a pay cap, but they still lost colleagues.

I still work in the NHS and, until the recent campaign, I would have heard comments from nursing colleagues about not money but staffing—people being on shifts and feeling thinly spread, unable to care, anxious about the danger to their patients. I would say that that is the No. 1 concern, but people in England have had a double whammy: they have had the pay freeze and the pay cap, yet they have still had redundancies. From what we read, there could be a lot more to come from the sustainability and transformation plans, and that is just plain wrong.

In Scotland, we focused what money we had in a different way. The people on less than £21,000 got 3% rises every year, with an absolute minimum in 2010 of £250, which has now risen to £400. If we focused only on percentages, a consultant like me would be sitting on a great pay rise, while the person who is cleaning the bedpans and making the beds would get a pitiful rise, so it is important that more of the money is pushed lower down. In Scotland, we pay the real living wage, not what we Scottish National party Members call the pretendy living wage—the national living wage. A living wage should be a wage on which someone can live. It is as simple as that. Our public sector workers demand no less than that.