Budget 2017: no promises for nurses on lifting the pay cap

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The UK's autumn budget was announced today, with an emergency £350 million ($466m) boost earmarked for the NHS to help see the health service through the hard winter period.

"You can buy extra capacity for operations from the independent sector, you can get more staff on temporary contracts at premium payment; but all of this would have been more effective if the money had been given the earlier in the financial year", he said.

Setting out his first Autumn Budget today, Philip Hammond committed an extra £2.8bn for hospitals between now and 2020, including £350m to prepare trusts for this winter. Many NHS salaries have been frozen or capped since 2010. The Treasury said the Budget commits to fund pay awards as part of a deal in the NHS under a so-called agenda for change agreement, including nurses, midwives and paramedics.

"Our NHS is one of our greatest institutions".

He said: "I am exceptionally, and outside the spending review process, making an additional commitment of an extra £2.8b of resource funding to the NHS in England".

The announcement drew some praise from Conservative MPs, but was quickly criticised by health professionals. Sir Bruce said the additional funds would plug "some, but [definitely] not all, of NHS funding gap".

"Prof John Appleby from the Nuffield Trust told a BMJ debate:"£350 million sounds like a lot, but is a day's running costs for the NHS". "Worrying that longer waits seem likely/unavoidable".

Budget 2017: no promises for nurses on lifting the pay cap

In a separate statement, Sir Malcolm said the extra money was "welcome and will go some way towards filling the widely accepted funding gap".

"However, we can no longer avoid the hard debate about what it is possible to deliver for patients with the money available", he added, saying NHS England will debate the issue at its board meeting next week.

Nurses have frequently demonstrated against the pay cap they have endured for the last seven years.

For the past 7 years, NHS staff have only a 1% pay rise in line with the public sector pay cap.

During an interview on BBC Breakfast this morning Phillip Hammond told viewers that nurses and other "dedicated NHS staff" received, on average, a 3.3% pay rise past year despite the 1% public sector pay cap being in force.

Janet Davies, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said the Chancellor had "clearly listened to the tens of thousands of nursing staff who've been campaigning for fair pay".

In a pointed pre-budget intervention on 8 November that irritated Theresa May, the chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, warned that the number of people waiting for surgery would soar and plans to improve cancer and mental healthcare have to be scaled back if it did not get the full £4bn, which three health thinktanks jointly said it needed.

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