Politically Speaking: Yvette Cooper - All our NHS heroes deserve a proper pay rise

The one per cent pay offer for nurses from the government is a disgrace. Frontline NHS staff worked for months without proper PPE, putting their own lives on the line.

By Yvette Cooper MP
Friday, 12th March 2021, 12:30 pm
NHS workers put their lives on the line by working without proper PPE during the pandemic
NHS workers put their lives on the line by working without proper PPE during the pandemic

To ensure patients received the care they needed during the crisis, they worked long hours and extra shifts. They’ve had to cope when their colleagues fell sick. And too many frontline NHS workers have died, including staff at Mid Yorkshire Trust.

Staff have been amazing, but they are exhausted. After a truly traumatic 12 months working on the frontline of a global pandemic, our NHS heroes deserve a proper pay rise.

Last year, we thanked them by clapping on our doorsteps and conservative ministers promised NHS staff would be respected and rewarded for what they had done. Instead this is a kick in the teeth.

A one per cent pay increase is less than inflation – that means NHS pay will be cut in real terms. Yet we know the government’s NHS plan has already budgeted for pay increases of more than twice that.

Ministers have happily paid billions in private contracts to companies like SERCO for failing test and trace services, or companies run by conservative party donors. And they’ve spent millions on highly paid management consultants. Yet they can’t manage the basics for the people who have kept our NHS going this year.

This will hit services too. We already have local nurse shortages and the NHS spends a fortune on agency staff. Hospital managers had already told me they were worried more nurses would leave as they feel burnt out and exhausted. NHS staff are doing the vital vaccine roll out too. And we depend on them to catch up on missed operations and treatment.

NHS staff have been there for us this year. It’s time for the country to be there for them. The government needs to reverse this decision and give them a proper pay rise now.

This is the time we should all be pulling together to rebuild our public services and our economy as we come out of the crisis.

That’s why in our towns everyone has been working so hard to support each other and to support our NHS.

It’s also why we worked so hard in Castleford this year to put together our bid for new capital investment from the Towns Fund. Huge thanks to everyone who backed our campaign as that’s how we’ve succeeded in getting over £20 million to invest in improving Castleford town centre and developing our riverside.

I’ve been working with Wakefield Council, local community groups, Castleford Tigers Foundation and local businesses on the bid. We have a strong community spirit in Castleford - walking through town to get shopping or a coffee or sandwich, there are always friendly faces wanting to chat. We need the whole community involved in drawing up the final plans.

But 10 years of austerity has hit all our towns hard and Wakefield Council has lost over £200 million. That’s why we need a fair deal for all our towns. Castleford and Wakefield were allowed by government to bid for investment, but the rest of our towns weren’t, even if they had great plans.

Knottingley was excluded by ministers even though it met all the criteria. That’s not fair. We need a fair deal for all our towns and for our public services. That’s how we will build our way back out of this crisis.