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Tory MPs worry 'tight and mean' NHS pay rise could do serious political damage

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When Boris Johnson left intensive care last year after a week at St Thomas’ Hospital in which the NHS saved his life, the Prime Minister recorded a special message of thanks. He briefly mentioned the doctors who had looked after him but the bigger focus was on the nursing team that had tended to his care. Johnson singled out Jenny from New Zealand and Luis from Portugal for looking after him “when things could have gone either way”.

The Prime Minister concluded that caring individuals like this who make up the NHS have given the nation cause for hope in the pandemic. So although there are positive signs that the pandemic is easing, it will be a cause of concern to Johnson that NHS staff pay is fast becoming a politically potent issue that risks damaging his Government’s standing.

Although the Chancellor’s Budget was positively received – with an initial Opinium poll finding that 51 per cent of Britons thought it was fair – any relief in the Treasury was short-lived when a row soon broke out over nurses’ pay. The Department of Health had proposed a 1 per cent pay rise on NHS salaries to the independent panel that advises the Government.

As Labour politicians went on the attack and nurses threatened to go on strike, ministers went on the airwaves to defend the proposals – with Johnson describing the........

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