Call For One-Off Pay Rise For Nurses

Rhodri Morgan has been asked to award nurses a full one-off pay increase today. Plaid Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones challenged him to reject the Treasury’s plan of spreading nurses’ pay rises over two stages and bring in a single pay rise, as in Scotland.

Mr Jones said a single pay rise, as called for by nurses themselves, would only cost about £7 million out of a £5 billion health budget. At First Ministers questions, Mr Jones said: “There’s a majority in this chamber to see the nurses get the full pay award. Will you honour that view?”

He said morale among nurses was low and that there was an unprecedented threat of industrial action. “Can you give us a pledge today that you will pay nurses’ pay in full?” he demanded.

Mr Morgan said his government “would wish to make that payment”, but he challenged Plaid to say where it would find the money. All “responsible politicians” had to say “where that money is going to come from” when altering the budget midway through a financial year, Mr Morgan said.

Conservative leader Nick Bourne also asked the First Minister to commit to funding the nurses’ pay increase in one go. “It seems to me that your party is intent on letting down this important body of workers,” said Mr Bourne, who added the financial cost of employing agency nurses if industrial action is taken would amount to £1.3 million per week.

Mr Morgan said: “As a responsible party leader, you have to indicate where you are going to get £7 million extra from? Where are we going to find it? It’s all very well trying to be popular, Nick, and I know you don’t get many chances to be popular.” The First Minister said he recommended the Treasury look again at the decision not to sanction the pay increase.

Plaid has tabled a debate for tomorrow’s plenary session calling on the Assembly Government to address low staff morale in the health services. Its motion asks for a full nurses’ pay rise, a better application process for junior doctors and a strategy to minimise abuse of NHS staff.