It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I am grateful to my hon. Friend Mr Cunningham for securing this important debate. I, too, had requested a debate on this subject but was unsuccessful, so I am pleased that he has been able to bring this important issue to the attention of the House.
Before I was elected to this place, I was registered with the Health and Care Professions Council, because I worked as a clinical scientist in the NHS. As we have heard, registration with the HCPC is an essential part of the job: without professional registration, scientists and allied health professionals in the NHS are not allowed to practise. I am no longer registered with the HCPC. Having worked for the NHS for 33 years and had a career change late in my working life, I have called time on my NHS career, so there is no conflict of interest.
The HCPC charging above-inflation fee increases is nothing new, but it is scandalous that its latest proposal is to raise fees for already hard-pressed healthcare professionals by an enormous inflating-busting 18%. If that increase is imposed, HCPC fees will have risen by 40% since 2014, outstripping inflation and going hugely above any pay rises that NHS staff have had.
I remember from my days in the NHS that the HCPC used to impose above-inflation fee increases during the years of the George Osborne 1% public sector pay cap. Any representations that the staff and trade unions made to the HCPC, at a time when many staff had had no pay rise at all, fell on deaf ears and were simply ignored. It appears that that has emboldened the HCPC to ask for more and more from its members, with no discernible improvement in the performance of the HCPC or an increase in the services that it provides to its registrants.
NHS staff are already struggling, their pay having been suppressed for many years since 2010, but more and more financial demands are made on them in order to stay in work. NHS staff in England have to pay to park at their workplace; NHS staff are paying more towards their pensions; any member of staff with any sense will be paying trade union subscriptions; many are repaying student loans; and now, they appear to be expected to finance the HCPC’s excessive, unreasonable and unjustified fee demands.
The staff are just not being listened to. My trade union, Unite, submitted a 38,000-signature petition against the fee increase to the chief executive of the HCPC before the decision was made on