Matt Hancock just delivered a ‘Scrooge letter’ to nurses over their pay

NHS nurses wearing PPE and Matt Hancock

Health secretary Matt Hancock has reportedly said nurses’ pay rises will be delayed next year. It comes after an ongoing battle over the pay of these frontline staff. One union has called Hancock’s written decision a ‘Scrooge letter’. But it seems that the news is just another episode in a long line of poor treatment of NHS staff.

Bah! Humbug!

Nursing Times reported that Hancock announced the delay via a letter. He wrote it to the NHS Pay Review Body, the organisation which makes recommendations on pay rises. The letter was to give notice to “formally begin pay talks” for next year, Nursing Times reported. In it, he blamed chancellor Rishi Sunak’s recent Spending Review (SR) for delaying nurses’ pay rise. Hancock wrote:

The timing of the SR announcement has unfortunately delayed the commencement of Pay Round 2021/22.

This refers to staff on the Agenda for Change scheme. In other words, a decision won’t be made on frontline staff like nurses’ pay until well into 2021. Nursing Times said that:

staff are unlikely to see extra money in their pockets until the summer.

The Pay Review Body not reporting until May is not unusual. Historically, it often released its reports in March. But in recent years, this has got later. On this occasion, though, it’s the background and context to the delay which matters.

Excluding frontline staff

The Canary reported in August about NHS workers marching across the UK. They were calling on the government to give all healthcare staff a decent pay rise – 15% to be precise. Campaigners said the government chose to “exclude” some NHS staff from a pay rise. As The Canary wrote:

Read on...

The ‘exclusion’ of some workers from the public sector pay rise relates to a recent government announcement. In July, it said it would give doctors a 2.8% pay rise. In part, this is because they were excluded from previous wage increases.

It continued:

But the government’s logic for giving doctors a pay rise (they hadn’t had one) was the same (but reversed) it applied to not giving any other NHS worker’s one. In short – they’d already had at least a 6.5% rise since 2018. So, according to the government, they don’t need another one.

Now it appears that, not only do the Tories think nurses don’t need a decent pay rise, they also think they can wait for the one they’ll give them too. This ignores the reality of life for many frontline NHS staff.

A crisis for nurses

The Guardian reported in September that the think tank the Kings Fund found the:

number of nurses and health visitors leaving their posts in hospitals and community services in England within three years of joining has risen almost 50% since 2013-14 and is now 28%.

The Guardian also noted that:

There are 40,000 vacancies for nurses in the NHS in England alone.

Many NHS trusts in England provided free food, drink and parking for staff during the pandemic, including rest hubs and “wobble rooms” where distressed staff could seek support. However, some of these initiatives have recently been discontinued, to the displeasure of staff.


At a time when nursing staff are already under severe strain and the profession is in crisis, the government’s decision is appalling. GMB union national officer Rachel Harrison told the London Economic:

The Health Secretary’s ‘Scrooge’ letter in the week before Christmas will leave NHS workers worried that they will not receive the fair pay rise next year that they were promised,

It is outrageous that this letter has been slipped out late on a Friday when ministers hoped that attention was elsewhere.

Indeed. Now nurses and other frontline NHS staff will have to wait to see their fate decided.

Featured image via Simon Davis/DFID – Wikimedia and Richard Townshend – Wikimedia 

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us