I believe that the passion, commitment, and specialist knowledge of our NHS staff is part of what makes our NHS so special. In particular, I recognise the sacrifice, commitment and dedication of our NHS workers over the past year. I believe it is important to honour this, but I know that the pandemic has had real consequences on public finances which cannot be ignored.
I have been assured that what the Government has tried to do with its recommendation for a 1 per cent pay rise for NHS staff is to give NHS staff as much as it can at the present time. It is also worth seeing this in the broader context - all but the lowest paid workers across the public sector have had their pay frozen for 2021/22. In addition, we should not forget that over one million NHS staff also continue to benefit from multi-year pay deals agreed with trade unions, including a pay rise of over 12 per cent for newly qualified nurses, with the average nurse's pay now £34,000 per year, and that junior doctors' pay has been increased by 8.2 per cent.
I know that the independent pay review bodies will make recommendations shortly, when they will be considered by the Government. It is right that the Government does not pre-empt these recommendations.
I fully support the Government's announcement last year of a pay rise of 2.8 per cent for doctors and dentists, backdated to April 2020, in line with the recommendations of the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration. This pay rise is an important acknowledgment of the commitment and hard work of staff throughout this difficult time. I am assured that the Government is working to deliver as much as it can in NHS pay rises.
The Government has already committed to a pay rise for NHS staff during 2021/22, in spite of the pay freeze in the wider public sector. The Government asked the independent pay review bodies for their recommendations and will carefully consider them: it is right that the Government does not pre-empt these recommendations. While at this stage I am not aware whether a decision has been made about the date from which the pay rise will apply, I will of course continue to monitor this issue closely.
Those on the front line in the NHS and in care homes have made an invaluable contribution to the fight against Coronavirus and I have great admiration for those in these vital professions. While I understand that a one-off bonus has not been offered in England, I would certainly be happy to speak with my colleagues in the Department of Health and Social Care to learn more about this issue.
I also welcome the investment that the Government has already made in the NHS workforce, including £513m in professional development and increased recruitment, £30m on staff mental health support including wellbeing hubs and occupational health support, and the new bursary programme giving at least £5,000 each year to new nursing, midwifery, and Allied Health professional students.