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Wednesday, 24 April, 2002, 16:48 GMT 17:48 UK
Nurse pay tied to NHS reforms
Alan Milburn, UK Health Secretary
Nurses want a large chunk of "Milburn's millions"
Nurses have not received the pay tonic they were hoping for from Health Secretary Alan Milburn.

Instead, he told the annual conference of the Royal College of Nursing in Harrogate that nurses would only receive more pay if they took on new roles and responsibilities.

Mr Milburn also promised the nurses negotiations over the modernisation of their pay structure would be completed by the end of the year.

He told them: "This must be a something for something arrangement."

This must be a something for something arrangement

Health Secretary Alan Milburn
Throughout their conference, nurses have been demanding significant pay rises to improve the recruitment and retention of staff.

"Investment in pay, just like every other area of future NHS spending has to pass our 'acid test' - it must contribute to expansion in NHS capacity, it must bring about increases in NHS productivity and it must deliver improved NHS performance."

He added: "Raising the money required discipline - sorting out the public finances, putting the economy on an even keel.

"Spending the money requires discipline too."

Results crucial

Mr Milburn said there would be many pressures on the money from many different quarters.

But he added: "We will not be forgiven - and the NHS will not be forgiven - if having raised the resources we fail to use them to get results that both nurses and patients want to see."

He said the new money had to deliver shorter waiting times, higher clinical standards and better health so it would be focussed on more staff, beds and buildings.

Mike Hayward: 'Give nurses the backing they deserve'
Mike Hayward: 'Give nurses the backing they deserve'
Mr Milburn again stressed that resources - an extra 40bn announced last week - would go hand-in-hand with reforms.

He told the RCN nurses roles needed to be extended, including some of those now carried out by doctors.

All nurses who want to, and is trained to will in future be trained to prescribe medicines.

The range of drugs and medicines nurses can prescribe is also set to be extended.

Mr Milburn also promised improvements to childcare provision for nurses and staff treatment contributing to hospital ratings.

But nurses were disappointed Mr Milburn did not make a specific pledge on pay.

Mike Hayward, an A&E nurse from Portsmouth who spoke out earlier in the week about 'third world' conditions in the NHS told Mr Milburn: "At the end of the day, you're going to have to put your money where your mouth is."

He added: "The only way he is going to keep the 35,000 new nurses in the NHS is to stop the others leaving by the back door.

"It's not act about recruiting, it's about retaining nurses.

"The only way, Mr Milburn, that you're going to retain your nurses is to publicly back them and pay them the money they deserve."

However Beverley Malone, general secretary of the RCN, said she was pleased that Mr Milburn had clearly listened to nurses.

"He showed a clear commitment to reform and supporting nurses to expand their roles and responsibilities.

"But it is crucial that nurses are fairly paid and that their value is recognised throughout the health service."

Shadow Health Secretary Liam Fox said: "It is insensitive to lecture nurses about 'acid tests' when they are often unable to treat patients the way they were trained due to the working practices imposed upon them."

He added: "Nurses' pay must be looked at closely, as must working practices.

"For instance, nurses who wish to return to the profession often face evening or weekend working - as well as levels of political interference that discourage them from returning."

More nurses

The government also announced last week there would be an extra 35,000 nurses for the health service by 2008.

Mr Milburn's speech came as it emerged the NHS is facing a 4.4bn legal bill for medical negligence claims.

According to the National Audit Office, the figure is a huge rise on the 2.8bn bill of two years ago and a "significant drain" on NHS resources.

Earlier at the conference the government came under renewed pressure to improve NHS working conditions.

Roswyn Hakesley-Brown, president of the RCN told the congress that nurses felt" undervalued and underpaid".

The BBC's Karen Allen
"There's a sense of common purpose"
Shadow Health Secretary Liam Fox
"Mr Milburn showed a great deal of insensitivity to nurses' problems"
Nurses in Harrogate assess Milburn's performance
"He didn't deliver anything on pay"
See also:

24 Apr 02 | Health
Nurses to press for pay rise
22 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Judge me on NHS challenge - Blair
18 Apr 02 | Health
Milburn sets out NHS plans
24 Apr 02 | Health
NHS faces 4.4bn negligence bill
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