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Boris Johnson has been condemned by a prominent nursing union after he made an “inaccurate” claim that nurses have been given a 12.8% pay rise over three years.
At Tuesday’s Downing Street press conference, the prime minister declined to give NHS staff in England a financial bonus as a gesture of support, after health and social care staff in Scotland got a £500 payment.
Instead, Johnson said:
“We do our absolute utmost to support our wonderful NHS staff and indeed have had a three-year pay package for nurses, that I think was 12.8%, and will continue to invest record sums in the NHS.”
The Royal College of Nursing, however, condemned his claim on Tuesday night.
In a statement echoing the same criticism of the PM earlier this month when he also said there had been a 12.8% pay rise, chief executive and general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair urged Johnson to be “accurate when discussing nursing pay”.
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She said his claims are “demoralising” for nurses “working a brutal shift” during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Far from getting a pay rise, the most experienced and long-serving nursing staff, who make up nearly half the profession, saw the value of their salaries fall 15.3% at today’s prices between 2010 and last year.
“Registered nurses at the top of band 5 had a salary of £30,615 last year, which would have been more than £5,000 higher if it had kept pace with inflation (RPI) to reach £36,160. This is a real terms gap of 15.3%.”
Johnson made the comments alongside the head of the NHS, Sir Simon Stevens. Sir Simon also declined to support calls for a bonus for frontline healthcare professionals. Instead he said NHS staff wanted three things.
“First of all to be able to look forward to some sort of respite from what has been an incredibly demanding and continuous year of pressure.
“Secondly to know that there are reinforcements on the way, that the staffing pressures in the health service will be taken seriously in the years to come.
“And thirdly to tackle the pressures in the here and now which fundamentally are about reducing the number of new patients who are turning up in A&E severely ill with coronavirus day in day out.”
It came after a grim-faced Johnson said he was “deeply sorry” after the UK’s coronavirus death toll passed 100,000.
“We did everything we could,” Johnson said at the Downing Street briefing.
“On this day I should repeat that I am deeply sorry for every life that has been lost and of course, as prime minister I take full responsibility for everything the government has done.”
Watch: Boris Johnson’s speech after UK exceeds 100,000 coronavirus deaths