Cabinet minister Oliver Dowden has urged nurses to accept the 5% pay rise they have been offered in what he has called a ‘decent’ deal.
He acknowledged it would be challenging to find the money needed to fund the improved pay offer for NHS staff, but said they should end the strikes and accept the bid.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster told Sky News: ‘Finding this money is not easy.
‘But we think that in this context of ensuring that we reward nurses properly and we prevent disruption, we can find the money to do this but it won’t be easy.’
He suggested the money could come from the £160 billion NHS budget or from within ‘wider Government spending’.
He added: ‘Given the pressure that health services around the world are under we’re not going to take services away from the frontline.
‘I don’t deny for a minute your point, which is that it is challenging to find this money.
‘This is why the Government held out for so long in respect of these negotiations, because there wasn’t some huge amount of money that we could turn to.
‘But I am confident that we we can find it either within the NHS budget or wider Government spending.’
Last week nurses were offered a one-off payment for the current financial year worth between £1,655 and £3,789 and a 5% consolidated pay increase.
In an additional commitment to the nurses and ambulance staff, the government has agreed to create a new pay spine exclusively for all nursing staff with the intention of it coming into force for 2024/25.
The agreed deal is far from what nurses had originally demanded at the end of last year.
Nurses walked out for the first time in the RCN’s 105-year history because they wanted a pay rise of 19.2% to compensate for huge inflation, back in December.
The government previously indicated it could only afford a 3.5% pay increase for staff.
Earlier this year unions indicated they would settle for a 10% rise.
Unions will have to ballot their members before the dispute ends, and would suspend future strikes while that happens.
Despite months of refusing to negotiate on current NHS pay levels, Oliver Dowden insisted ‘we were always willing to engage with the unions’.
Mr Dowden told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg: ‘We had initial discussions with them.’
He added: ‘If we want to get into the sort of intestines, as it were, of the two different deals, I think my overall dispensation now is ‘we’ve got a decent deal now, let’s let’s move forward’.
‘But in terms of the actual specifics of it, first of all the RCN (Royal College of Nursing) moved their position.
‘Secondly, the additional amounts that we’ve agreed for this year are so-called non-consolidated, so that means that they don’t really add enormously to inflation because they don’t carry forward and they don’t add so much the pressure on public finances.
‘Then in addition to that, we’ve looked forward to the coming year, which we always said we were willing to do so, and the number we’ve got for the coming year is broadly aligned with where we expect wider public or private sector pay to go.
‘So it’s a decent deal. And I would urge people to support it. ‘
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First appear at Oliver Dowden encourages nurses to accept ‘decent’ deal to end strikes