HEALTH ministers have defended controversial plans to localise public sector pay in the wake of criticism from a North East Tory MP.
Hexham MP Guy Opperman said he saw “no economic argument” to justify paying public sector staff in the North East a lower wage than their Southern counterparts.
“To me someone working in the NHS in a deprived part of the North East probably deserves more pay than a nurse in leafy Surrey,” he added.
Jamie Reed, a Labour Shadow Health Minister, used those comments to attack the regional pay plans during exchanges in the House of Commons with his Government counterparts.
He claimed the proposals would see lower pay for NHS staff in poor areas and “create a deeply divided, two-tier NHS and undermine the NHS in the communities that need it most” - and urged Health Secretary Andrew Lansley to take the advice of the Hexham MP. “Will the Secretary of State commit today, yes or no, to withdraw these disastrous proposals?” said Mr Reed.
Mr Lansley said: “I am not proposing to reduce anybody’s pay.
“It is very simple. The NHS Pay Review Body will have the opportunity to make recommendations.
“I gave evidence to it on the basis that we should retain a national framework for pay.” He said that should be done through an existing framework, but added it had not enabled NHS organisations to adopt a pay structure better reflecting the local labour market.
The Tory Cabinet minister also confirmed senior managers in new bodies established by the Government’s NHS reorganisation would be exempt from regional pay, saying they operated in national labour markets.