The 1 per cent pay rise for NHS nurses is “the most” the government can afford during the pandemic, a health minister has claimed.
Conservative MP Nadine Dorries defended the decision not to recommend a larger pay increase for health care workers in England on Friday (5 March) morning.
Her comments came as the government faces furious backlash due to the proposed pay rise which emerged from Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget.
The Royal College of Nursing, which has called for a 12.5 per cent pay increase for nurses, said the rise would amount to only an extra £3.50 a week in take home pay for an experienced nurse.
So, who is Nadine Dorries, what exactly did she say about the pay rise - and what has been the reaction?
Here is everything you need to know.
Who is Nadine Dorries MP?
Nadine Dorries, 62, is a former nurse and a Conservative health minister.
From Liverpool, Ms Dorries has served as an MP for the southern constituency of Mid Bedfordshire since 2005.
She worked as a nurse during her early career, before setting up her own business, Company Kids, which provided childcare services for working parents.
The company was sold to BUPA in 1998, and she went on to work as a director for the healthcare provider.
Ms Dorries appeared on I’m A Celebrity in 2012, but she was the first contestant to be voted off the show.
She was then suspended from the Conservative party after entering the ITV reality show without permission.
However, she was later reinstated to her role as MP.
In 2019, Ms Dorries was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care, where she focuses on policies surrounding mental health, women’s health and suicide and crisis prevention.
She became the first MP to be diagnosed with Covid in March 2020.
As well as her role in Westminster, Ms Dorries is a published author and has written several books including the fictional trilogy Four Streets Saga.
She was married to Paul Dorries, who she met in Liverpool when she was 17, since 1983 before they divorced in 2007.
The pair have three daughters together.
What did Nadine Dorries say about the NHS pay rise?
Ms Dorries said on Friday (5 March) that she was “pleasantly surprised” that the pay rise had been proposed while the wages of other public sector staff were being frozen during the coronavirus crisis.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, the Conservative MP said: “I was actually surprised because I knew that we’d frozen public-sector pay, that no-one in the public sector was receiving a pay rise, so I was pleasantly surprised that we were making an offer.”
She went on to say that the government had to prioritise boosting the economy and protecting jobs, through initiatives like the furlough scheme, over giving more money to health care workers.
"The 1% offer is the most we think we can afford. It's what the offer is. It would be wrong to say a single person in the government doesn't appreciate the effort of nurses,” Ms Dorries told Sky News.
"It is important to note that the priority of the government has been about protecting people's livelihoods, about continuing the furlough scheme, about fighting the pandemic, and we've put huge effort into that.
"We do not want nurses to go unrecognised - or doctors - and no other public-sector employee is receiving a pay rise, there has been a pay freeze."
Ms Dorries insisted that "everybody in an ideal world would love to see nurses paid far more".
And she added: "Nurses are about more than superficial soundbite. They love their job. I hope those nurses who love their jobs too will stay in the NHS and stick with us."
The health minister suggested that the pay rise offer could be improved after feedback from unions and NHS stakeholders.
She also took to Twitter to highlight that nurses have had a 12 per cent increase in pay over the past three years.
“No other public sector worker will receive a pay rise. Many in the private sector have lost their jobs, or are on reduced pay or shorter hours,” she wrote.
“Over the past three years newly qualified nurses have quite rightly had a 12% increase with average pay at £34k.”
What was the reaction?
The MP’s defence of the proposed pay rise sparked fury among unions on Friday (5 March).
Rachel Harrison, national officer of the GMB union, said: "NHS workers are furious at the government's recommendation of 1% pay increase
"Ministers have followed this with an even more contemptuous defence of the paltry increase - essentially saying 'it's better than nothing’.
"It's dismissive and insulting to NHS workers who have had an incredibly tough year keeping us all safe."
And Unite’s national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said on the proposed rise: “It shows an unyielding contempt by ministers for those who have done so much to care for tens of thousands of Covid-19 patients in the last year.”
Dame Donna Kinnair, the chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, claimed that ministers were “dangerously out of touch” with NHS staff and the public on the rise.
She said: "This is pitiful and bitterly disappointing. The government is dangerously out of touch with nursing staff, NHS workers and the public.
"Nobody would think that is fair in the middle of a pandemic and it will do nothing to prevent the exodus from nursing.
"If we can't afford to nurse we will find other things to do."