National Health Service Pay Cap

– in the Scottish Parliament on 25th May 2017.

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Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour

6. To ask the First Minister, in light of her expressing the view that the NHS pay cap is “unsustainable”, whether the Scottish Government will provide details of the submission it made to the pay review body. (S5F-01306)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

In the most recent pay review, the Scottish Government submission included a commitment to paying the real living wage, a guarantee of a minimum increase of £400 for staff earning £22,000 or less, the continuation of our policy of no compulsory redundancies—all three of those policies are different from those elsewhere in the UK—and a 1 per cent pay increase for staff earning more than £22,000, which is similar to the position in Wales.

That was our most recent submission. I have made it clear that, as we have now entered a period in which inflation is rising, the pay restraint that we have seen in recent times is unsustainable. That is why, in advance of our next submission, we have asked staff representatives, including unions, to gather evidence to submit to the pay review body.

Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour

The First Minister will be aware that our NHS staff have endured seven years of pay restraint, which for some nurses has meant a 14 per cent real-terms cut worth £3,400. As the First Minister has just said, her submission to the pay review body was to keep the 1 per cent pay cap. Does she accept that our fantastic NHS staff deserve better pay, and will she commit to scrapping the pay cap?

The First Minister:

As I said, we have had pay restraint for the last number of years, and I know how difficult that has been for staff. Of course, the purpose of that has been to protect jobs in our NHS and our wider public service at a time when our budgets have been getting reduced year on year. The Scottish Government has taken a range of actions to try to give targeted support, particularly to the lowest paid. The initiatives that I outlined—the real living wage, the guaranteed increase for low-paid staff and the continuation of the no compulsory redundancies policy—are all policies that are not in place elsewhere in the United Kingdom. That is an indication of how seriously we take fair treatment of those who work in our NHS.

On the future, I have made it clear that, when inflation is rising, pay restraint of that nature cannot be sustainable. For the NHS, we have given a commitment to making a submission, with staff representatives, that takes account of inflation and through which, moving forward, we can secure fair outcomes for staff in the NHS and the wider public service that take account of affordability but also the cost of living and the pressures that people live with daily.