Frontline carers and other essential workers have played a vital role in our fight against the coronavirus pandemic, and I am very grateful for their service at this difficult time.
I am pleased that, despite the need to get our public finances under control after the pandemic, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has confirmed that NHS staff, as well as the lowest-paid public sector workers, will receive pay rises this year, and will be exempt from the public sector pay freeze. This is just recognition for the contribution of NHS staff during this pandemic.
In 2018, a deal was agreed ensuring a 6.5% pay rise for over a million NHS workers on Agenda for Change contracts over three years, including a 12% increase in the starting salary for a newly qualified nurse. I understand that the NHS Pay Review Body, which covers staff on Agenda for Change contracts, will return to making recommendations for this year’s additional pay rise now this three-year period is coming to an end, and I eagerly await those recommendations.
The new immigration system is tailored to the skills this country needs at this time, rather than giving preference based on the nationality of the applicant, and therefore it ensures that we will welcome a range of health professionals to the United Kingdom. I particularly welcome the new Health and Care Visa, which creates a fast-track visa route for eligible health and care professionals, and the fact that, as we respond to the pandemic, thousands of health professionals and their family dependants have had their visas extended for a year, free of all fees and charges.
The fight against coronavirus is a national effort, and the Government is giving NHS staff the support they need throughout it, and ensuring their contribution is rewarded afterwards.