FILE PHOTO: Chief executive of the NHS Simon Stevens speaks during a virtual news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic inside 10 Downing Street in London, Britain January 26, 2021. Justin Tallis/Pool via REUTERS

Health workers should “get a proper reward” for their work in fighting a coronavirus pandemic, Sir Simon Stevens said on Tuesday, increasing pressure on the government over what some call its “reprehensible” pay offer.

Prime minister Boris Johnson has been accused of failing to honour his promise to look after health workers fighting Covid-19 by proposing a 1 per cent pay increase for NHS workers with some calling on the government to issue a one-off bonus.

Johnson, who himself was treated in hospital last year when he became severely ill with Covid-19, said on Sunday his government had tried “to give the NHS as much as we possibly can” but would wait to see the conclusion of a pay review.

“I agree with you that coming out of the past year and everything that NHS staff have been through, proper recognition for that is entirely right,” Sir Simon, head of NHS England, told a parliamentary committee.

He also said the long-term plan for the health service had budgeted for a pay increase of 2.1 per cent this year, but he agreed with the government to wait to see the recommendation from an independent review body, due to be made to government in May.

Last week, Johnson’s government set out its plans to help the economy weather the Covid-19 crisis, with finance minister Rishi Sunak promising to do “whatever it takes to support the British people and businesses”.

But the proposed 1 per cent pay increase for health workers has been branded as “reprehensible” by the main opposition Labour Party, and one nursing trade union has threatened strike action over it.

‘Pharmacy teams working flat out’

Meanwhile, commenting on the proposed 1 per cent pay increase for NHS workers in England this year and calling for a pay reward for pharmacy teams, chair of RPS in England Professor Claire Anderson said: “We’re incredibly proud of all pharmacy teams, who have worked flat out during the pandemic. The pharmacy response and clinical leadership shown have been exceptional. It’s important that all staff are valued and their work rewarded.

“We wrote to the chancellor back in July 2020, after pharmacists were initially omitted from the pay rise announced for public sector workers. We urged him to take action and extend the rise to pharmacists.

“We support the work of the unions who are making the case for NHS staff in England to be given a higher pay rise and we hope the government will reconsider the pay proposal so teams feel recognised for the work they do.”

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