Hunt hints at flex­i­bil­ity over NHS pay

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JEREMY Hunt has said NHS staff ‘de­serve to be well paid’ as he re­acted to a let­ter sent by unions to fel­low Sur­rey MP, Chan­cel­lor of the Ex­che­quer Philip Ham­mond, call­ing for a 3.9% pay rise.

Speak­ing at St Peter’s Hospi­tal, in Chert­sey, last Fri­day, the Health Sec­re­tary was asked whether the staff he had met de­served the pay rise, which 14 health unions, rep­re­sent­ing more than a mil­lion work­ers, called for.

He said: “I think NHS staff cer­tainly de­serve to be well paid be­cause they do a fan­tas­tic job, I don’t think they’ve ever worked harder.

“It’s a stress­ful job, they’re on their feet a lot, they’re of­ten work­ing ex­tra hours pro bono and, of course, I want to recog­nise that.

“At the same time, we’re not in a vac­uum, we have to recog­nise there is a na­tional eco­nomic con­text which is ex­tremely chal­leng­ing.

“The fi­nan­cial cri­sis was 10 years ago this week and we’re still get­ting over that, so it’s a very, very dif­fi­cult is­sue, but what the gov­ern­ment has said this week is that we will be flex­i­ble.

“We will look at the re­cruit­ment and re­ten­tion is­sues in dif­fer­ent sec­tors, and there are cer­tainly plenty of those is­sues in nurs­ing, and we will look at what we can do on pro­duc­tiv­ity im­prove­ments.

“So we won’t have that rigid 1% across the whole pub­lic sec­tor, and that I think al­lows us to have much bet­ter con­ver­sa­tions with peo­ple like the Royal Col­lege of Nurs­ing.”

The MP for South West Sur­rey was vis­it­ing St Peter’s, Frim­ley Park Hospi­tal and the Royal Sur­rey County Hospi­tal to speak about pa­tient safety.

Mr Hunt said: “I’m talk­ing to all the trusts about pa­tient safety is­sues, which has been prob­a­bly the big theme of my time as Health Sec­re­tary.

“We have some of the safest care in the world in the NHS but we still have 150 avoid­able deaths ev­ery week across the sys­tem and that’s not right, so we had a re­ally pos­i­tive dis­cus­sion about what we can do to change that.”

When asked about whether he had come to any con­clu­sions as to how th­ese deaths could be avoided, Mr Hunt shared his goal of the NHS be­com­ing ‘the world’s largest learn­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion’.

He added: “We did come to a con­sen­sus that the most im­por­tant thing is to sup­port staff who want to be open and trans­par­ent about some­thing that may have gone wrong but are wor­ried that if they do so there will be lit­i­ga­tion, they will be hauled in front of the Gen­eral Med­i­cal Coun­cil or the Nurs­ing and Mid­wifery Coun­cil or the Care Qual­ity Com­mis­sion.”

“Re­ally, if we are go­ing to trans­form safety we need the NHS to be­come the world’s largest learn­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion where peo­ple are sup­ported be­cause all of us, we’re all hu­man be­ings, we all make mis­takes.

“Doc­tors and nurses hap­pen to have had the courage to do a job where the price of mak­ing a mis­take can some­times be a tragedy, and the most im­por­tant thing that ev­ery­one wants in those sit­u­a­tions is to learn from what went wrong so that we can make sure it doesn’t hap­pen again.”

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