Nurses have stated that they are “not getting their hopes up” after Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt offered to discuss a pay rise for NHS staff.
The Health Secretary indicated that he is “sympathetic” to the idea of raising NHS staff pay.
Hunt vowed to raise the matter with the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
This comes in a climate of frustration and potential industrial action.
Nurses raised the possibility of striking for the first time in history last month over low pay, which has been cut by 14 per cent in real terms since 2010, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).
Speaking at the NHS Confederation Conference in Liverpool, Mr Hunt indicated that public sector pay freeze could be lifted for the nursing profession.
“I have a great deal of sympathy for the case that nurses have made. We have a budget that we have to live within and public sector pay is a matter for the Chancellor. But I have had a constructive letter from Janet Davies [chief executive of the RCN] and I will meet with her and make sure that our conversation is reflected back to the Chancellor.”
But Nurse and campaigner Danielle Tiplady stated that there is considerable anger towards Hunt among the nursing profession.
“The most frequent response I’ve seen is: ‘I’ll believe it when I see it. There shouldn’t have to be these horrific events for us to be valued by the Government. It’s quite insulting that it’s taken a general election for them to lose their majority to speak to the RCN, when for seven years nurses have been telling them about hardship and the fact they’ve been going to food banks and using payday loans.”
Tiplady went on to accuse the government of responding in order to shore up its position after a poor general election performance.
“Actually this is about self preservation. If they’d had a landslide majority, they’d have no intention of doing this. It’s all well and good Jeremy Hunt saying he will speak to the Chancellor, but I’m not getting my hopes up at all.”
While Alan Taman, spokesperson for the campaign group Keep Our NHS Public, suggested that a pay rise was insufficient to counteract years of austerity.
“I’m sure Mr Hunt was moved on seeing how selfless, hard working and compassionate NHS staff are. But frankly with the way his government under-funded all of the NHS systematically for years – and shows no signs of stopping – while it hurries through massive changes forged in secret and largely kept from public scrutiny, this alone will not be enough.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has already raised the issue of the pay of nurses during the general election campaign.