Poulter says boosting hospital pay could save NHS millions of pounds

Dr Dan Poulter continues to work in the NHS as well as serving as a Suffolk MP. Picture: DENISE BRA

Dr Dan Poulter continues to work in the NHS as well as serving as a Suffolk MP. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

Removing the 1% pay cap on NHS pay could save the organisation money by reducing its reliance on expensive agency staff, former health minister Dr Dan Poulter said.

The Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP said many staff were leaving or cutting back their hours because of the government’s pay restraint policy and were then working for agencies which were employed by hospitals – and which cost much more than the staff’s normal wages.

He said: “There has been the 1% cap for five or six years now. Everyone knew why it was first brought in but now its just going on every year and people are seeing their earnings being eroded.”

Staff who worked for an agency could earn several times the hourly rate – and often in very similar environments.

Dr Poulter, who works part-time in a London hospital, said: “They might not end up working in their own hospital but they could be in the same county or the same region doing almost exactly the same thing.

“Most staff would rather work in their normal place but it is just not worthwhile with the cap in place.

“If the salary cap was eased I am sure many staff would rather continue working as part of their team and this would cost the NHS much less than paying agency fees and the cost of agency staff.

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“Agencies can earn up to £25 an hour per staff member they provide to the NHS.” That is in addition to the pay for the staff members who are on their books.

The government has insisted that pay cap is necessary to keep a lid on public spending and an amendment proposed by the opposition to remove the cap as part of the Queen’s Speech debate was defeated.

Dr Poulter did not support this – he said there were other issues in that amendment and he felt the right time to put the pressure on the government was during the budget process later this year.

Last week Prime Minister Theresa May told MPs that upcoming recommendations from pay review bodies for public servants would be “very carefully” considered.

But she left little doubt her position chimes with that of Chancellor Philip Hammond, who has warned a relaxation of pay restraint would require extra borrowing or tax rises to avoid increasing the deficit.