I thank all the people who have signed the petitions that we are debating for expressing their support for NHS and social care staff and for the generosity of spirit that they have shown. It has given everyone in this place another chance to show our appreciation for NHS and social care staff. From working alongside colleagues, I know that it makes a difference: they notice these things.
We have seen an astonishing contribution over recent months, but many NHS and social care staff make fantastic contributions every day as part of their normal work. People go into the NHS and social care with open eyes—they are not naive about what their roles entail—but that does not mean that we should not try harder to understand better how some roles and areas of work do not give staff the work-life balance that we would expect or the ability to deliver the care that we would want them to be able to deliver. As the workforce more generally moves towards greater flexibility and better work-life balance, NHS and social care staff will increasingly compare their work experiences and will perhaps not recommend that future generations go down the same route. We must tackle that.
That is why I am glad that at the most recent election the Government made some incredibly ambitious commitments for NHS staffing levels, particularly GP and nursing staff levels. The successful delivery of those goals will make an enormous difference. To get there, the Government will really have to get to grips with recruitment and retention in the NHS in a way that in recent years no party has done. We have made some good progress already: we have seen some good figures today on the increases in NHS and doctor numbers; junior doctors’ pay scales will have increased by at least 8% by 2023; and nurses will have received increases of between 6.5% and 9% by next year. The reward package also includes things such as pensions, some of which are the best available: members of the scheme can generally expect to receive £3 to £6 in pension benefits for every £1 that they contribute.
It is not just about pay, though. For example, in GP practice we see an enormous shift among new recruits to part-time work, because people want more flexibility. They want to live a different style of life, and that will have an enormous impact on the workforce across NHS. I want to use the focus on NHS and social care staff that has come about in the light of the pandemic and the extraordinary contributions that have been made to get everybody in this place to engage with the significant workforce challenges that we will face given an ageing population and an increase in demand.
Pay is never easy for any Government—there is always a need to look after the nation’s finances—but a recognition of the important role that healthcare can have in stimulating the economy and creating jobs and innovation should be given greater weight in the Treasury’s calculations. We do not yet know what the underlying finances are going to be in future years, as all the impacts of the pandemic play out, but within those constraints I want the Government to do everything they can to go as far as they can to reward and recognise the contribution of NHS and social care staff.