I would like to respond to those constituents who contacted me around the time of the Autumn Budget to raise their concerns about NHS funding and pay.

I fully support the Government in its commitment to make the NHS the safest, highest quality healthcare system in the world. There are over 11,300 more nurses on our wards since 2010 and over 52,000 nurses in training. The Government recently committed to increase nurse training places by a further 25 per cent, the largest ever increase.

How we value and retain our staff is critical, and I am encouraged by the Government's announcement that we will no longer have an across-the-board policy of 1 per cent basic pay awards. It will look to the expert pay review bodies to deliver a settlement which balances the needs of affordability for taxpayers, improved retention for the system, and a fair reward for staff. These independent pay review bodies apply their expertise and objectivity in making recommendations to Government and any changes must be justified by the available evidence on recruitment, productivity, and retention.

I am happy to say that, in the 2017 Autumn Budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that the Government will additionally fund any increased pay award, a significant move which will reward NHS staff and protect NHS services. The Department of Health is involved in ongoing discussions with NHS trades unions, NHS Employers, and the Treasury to best establish how to increase productivity in the NHS, as it is vital that any increases in investment in the NHS represent value for money for taxpayers, and contribute to a more efficient NHS, in a time of ongoing pressure on public finances. The pay review body will make its next recommendation in March 2018, and I will follow this issue with interest.  

You may be aware that the NHS is one of few public sector workforces that receive annual incremental pay progression. Around half of staff on Agenda for Change contracts receive incremental pay of around 3 per cent on average. For example, a typical qualified nurse can expect seven years of pay progression averaging around 3.8 per cent a year, in addition to annual pay awards. This means pay rises in addition to the previous 1 per cent headline award have been received.

 To help support NHS staff in their duty of care, the Government has already committed to increase NHS spending in England by at least £8 billion in real terms by the end of this parliament. By cutting bureaucracy and championing higher standards, Ministers have ensured this money goes on frontline care and not administration.

 In the Autumn Budget, the Chancellor announced £6.3 billion of new funding for the NHS in England. This is a significant increase to the NHS’s budget and will, for example, improve the service that patients receive in A&E, reduce waiting times for treatment after referral, and put the NHS on a stronger, more sustainable footing. Specifically, the Budget announced: 

    • £2.8 billion of additional resource funding over 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20 for the NHS in England for day to day spending on, for example, surgeries and treatments, ensuring that more patients receive the care that they need more quickly

    • £3.5 billion of capital investment for buildings and facilities in the NHS in England by 2022-23. 

I am proud the NHS has once again been rated the best healthcare system in the world by the Commonwealth Fund, something that is only possible thanks to the dedication and hard work of all NHS staff, supported by a strong economy.