Unions and MPs have demanded more clarity from ministers over exactly how the £2.5bn pay deal for NHS workers will be funded.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay issued a statement on Tuesday designed to reassure more than a million nurses, ambulance staff and other union members who are voting on the pay offer, which has halted months of strike action in the NHS.
Mr Barclay insisted the money would come from “additional funding” from the Treasury as well as “reprioritising existing budgets” and that “there will be no impact to frontline services or quality of care as a result of this offer”.
The pay deal agreed earlier this month involves a six per cent one-off bonus for 2022-23 and a five per cent pay rise for the coming financial year. Union members have around four weeks to cast their votes.
Appearing before the Commons Liaison Committee on Tuesday, Rishi Sunak also insisted there would be “additional funding” for the deal but said he did not “want to get in the middle of” negotiations between the Treasury and the Department of Health and Social Care.
Labour MP Meg Hillier, chair of the Commons public accounts committee, said NHS trusts needed certainty now, as there was only one week left of the current financial year.
Ms Hiller said there was a “lot of money” that hospitals might have to take “from their frontline budget” without certainty on how pay rises would be funded, adding: “How do you expect them to square that circle?”
The Prime Minister replied: “There will be additional funding, there will also be reprioritisation, as there always is.”
In his statement to reassure union members, Mr Barclay said: “This week, nurses, ambulance crews, physiotherapists and other non-medical NHS staff will begin to vote in trade union ballots on the Government’s pay offer – this is a hugely positive step after weeks of constructive talks.
“This fair and balanced offer recognises the vital role these hardworking NHS staff play, while protecting our commitment to halve inflation – and I urge union members to accept our offer.
“I’m working with the Treasury to ensure my department has the money it needs to fully fund this pay offer, which will include additional funding and reprioritising existing budgets. This is on top of the existing funding we have already made available for a pay increase of up to 3.5 per cent in 2023-24.
“I want to be clear – there will be no impact to frontline services or quality of care as a result of this offer.”
Rachel Harrison, GMB national secretary, said: “The NHS is underfunded and the Government agreed to put extra funding into the NHS pay offer as a condition for entering into talks.
“If reports of additional new money are accurate then that will be welcomed – but it’s time to end the succession of confusing statements from different departments.
“We’ll continue to hold the Government to account on its promise to fund a pay settlement that our members can accept, without cuts to already overstretched services.”