I do not begrudge people in Northern Ireland the money that they have gained from that deal. All that the rest of us are asking for is to have something similar elsewhere. Nurses in Scotland, Wales and England are struggling as much as those in Northern Ireland. To be honest, it is a distraction to keep focusing on that deal. I disapprove of it, but not because people in Northern Ireland are getting a bit more of the help that the rest of us would be glad to receive.
We had the pay freeze and then the pay cap, but there have even been times when the pay review bodies’ recommendations have not been carried through. That has resulted in a band 5 nurse in England being paid £300 less a year than a band 5 nurse in Scotland. We have pushed the money down the way, so for a healthcare assistant or nursing auxiliary, the difference is more than £1,100 a year. However, it is not just a matter of the people at the bottom. In a way, the people who have experienced the freeze the most are those at the top of their grade who are not getting any more increments and are not changing grades. In actual fact, their pay has not moved for several years, and then it has moved by only 1%. Other people’s pay has gone up by increments, so at least they have seen a change in their pay. Earlier, a Labour Back Bencher was talking about a senior nurse. Such senior staff, who are within 10 years of retiring and who carry the experience of the NHS, are looking at other jobs in which that kind of life experience would be much more highly rewarded, and they are thinking, “Can I even afford to stay in this job if I am to look after my family?” In Scotland and elsewhere, we have tried to tackle this appalling issue of low-paid staff in a caring public service such as the NHS, but now we must realise that, for people higher up the grades, the time is over.