Pay rise demanded by nurses would cost £10,000,000,000.00 minister claims - 'It's taxpayers' money!'

Health Minister Maria Caulfield claims 70,000 appointments will be cancelled because of strikes

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FUNDING the pay rise demanded by nurses would cost £10 billion, health minister Maria Caulfield has claimed.

She told GB News: “It is very disappointing to see strike action in 44 of the 215 trusts in England.

"It is disappointing to see strike action today. It will mean the cancellation of around 70,000 operations, outpatients appointments and procedures and that's not where we want to be.

"We have got a difficult choice as the government the RCN is asking for a 19 per cent pay rise, that's £10 billion of funding that we would have to find to be able to pay for that.

“And as a Government, we've only got three mechanisms to do that. It's not the Government's money, it's the taxpayers’ money, and we would either have to borrow to pay for that.

Speaking to Andrew Pierce and Isabel Webster, Ms Caulfield said: “We all saw a few weeks ago, what happens when Governments can't afford to borrow money in terms of the impact it has on markets and interest rates.

“We either tax people, and I think no one would want that at a time when people are already struggling with cost of living pressures, or we take it from existing services. And that would mean taking it from NHS budgets where we're trying to get through COVID backlogs.

“We're in the middle of winter pressures. And we're opening up new surgical hubs, new diagnostic centres, new hospitals, and that would mean taking money from those projects. So we have a very difficult decision. A 19 per cent pay rise is just not affordable.”

The historic strike will see 70,000 NHS operations and appointments cancelled
The historic strike will see 70,000 NHS operations and appointments cancelled

She said: “We have been pretty clear and the Prime Minister was extremely clear yesterday, there's an independent pay review process that comes to decide where pay lands. We're not saying that nurses don't deserve a pay rise.

“That's why we gave 3 per cent last year when no one else got a pay rise, the independent Pay Review Body have recommended 4.5 per cent but for the lowest nurses it's over 9 per cent which we accepted in full.

“If you're going to have an independent Pay Review body that looks at things like inflation, staffing levels, retention issues and negotiate that with the unions as well, then we have to respect that decision and we have accepted it in full as the Labour government in Wales, as did the government in Northern Ireland as well.”

Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Pat Cullen said: “I woke up this morning very, very early and felt heartbroken as a nurse.

“First of all, tragic that I have to lead the profession on to the picket lines to have their voice heard, and I think that is a serious indictment of this Government.

“It’s tragic for nursing, it’s tragic for patients and it’s tragic for the NHS, that the Government feels that they can sit in their offices today and keep our nurses out in the cold.”

Elsewhere in the country drivers tooted their horns as they drove past around 30 nurses and their supporters on the picket line outside Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay has refused to discuss the nurses' 19 per cent pay claim
Health Secretary Steve Barclay has refused to discuss the nurses' 19 per cent pay claim

Picket line supervisor Alison, who declined to give her surname, said: “There’s one reason I am striking and that is patient safety which has been compromised by the sheer reduction in the number of nurses.

“People are burning or burnt out and the knock-on effect is just untenable. “We have had years of below-inflation pay increases and some people are struggling to make ends meet.

“It’s a sad day when people cannot afford to come to work.

“If people find it more attractive and less stressful to work elsewhere, we are not going to bring in the nurses we need, or keep the ones we have got.”