Asked if he thought it helped the Government’s case to reform the NHS to dismiss expressions of anger as a "political stunt", the PMOS said he thought that the behaviour of the delegates at yesterday’s nurses’ conference had been rude. Perhaps those who had attended the conference should reflect on the fact that there were now 85,000 more nurses in the NHS. That number was not going to drop next year. We had also seen a 25% increase in nurses’ starting pay – from around £12,000 to around £19,000. He also pointed out that the top pay which the most senior nurse could earn was £83,000. Of course we recognised that few nurses would earn that much. However, it was an indication of how much nurses’ aspirations had changed under this Government.
We accepted that we were going through a period of change in the NHS, especially one in which the focus was switching from hospitals – where the vast majority of RCN members worked – to community-based medicine and community-based projects, such as the one the Health Secretary was visiting in Dudley today. We understood that some people felt uncomfortable at that change, hence the expressions of anger we had seen in recent days. However, it was important not to lose sight of the reality of the situation in terms of how nurses’ pay, working conditions and numbers had improved. Put to him that the nurses’ anger was born out of a belief that the Government was not listening to their concerns, the PMOS repeated that the increase in nurses’ pay and numbers and the change in job descriptions in order to broaden aspirations showed that the Government had listened.
Asked if the Prime Minister had watched news coverage of the Health Secretary’s speech yesterday, the PMOS confirmed that he had seen part of the speech. Asked the Prime Minister’s reaction to the treatment meted out to her, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister admired the composed way with which Ms Hewitt had dealt with what had clearly been a very difficult situation and the calm way in which she had tried to put the Government’s case in terms of what it had done, not just for nurses, but for patients and the NHS.
Briefing took place at 7:00 | Search for related news
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