In a contentious interview on Monday, Kay Burley questioned health minister Helen Whately about NHS salary issues.
The Sky News presenter asked the social care minister if the government will approve the pay review bodies’ salary rise for health sector workers. Whately declined to answer.
Burley disagreed with her that prime minister Rishi Sunak should be “responsible” with public resources.
Junior doctors announced further five days of industrial action for July, the longest NHS walkout ever.
Next month, public sector pay review boards may recommend a 6% health worker wage raise.
Burley responded, “Pay review bodies take direction from government budgets, don’t they?
“So you tell them how much money is available and the prime minister chooses the pay review board chairman?”
Whately said she “doesn’t know the exact process” for the board chair’s appointment.
Burley replied: “Well they do. The PM selects the compensation review board chairman.
“And then, the government tells the pay review boards what the upper limits of the budgets are, and they say, ‘OK, as a result, 6% for nurses and doctors, and 6.5% for teachers,’ or whatever.”
Whately then explained that many pay review committees examine information from labour unions, market pay rates, and inflation and make recommendations.
She concluded: “Government must make responsible decisions.”
“What’s the point in having [pay review bodies] if you ignore them?” Burley questioned.
“I never said that,” the minister said. We follow pay review body recommendations.
The government must be fiscally prudent.
Whately repeated Sunak’s commitment to lower inflation and said the government and prime minister must make “tough decisions,” but she would not “pre-empt” the government’s next move.
The Sky News anchor said, “When your colleagues – and indeed you – have sat there previously, and we’ve talked about percentage pay increase, you’ve always said we have to abide by what the independent pay review bodies suggest to us.”
“I don’t think we’ve always said that,” Whately added.
Burley asked: “Even though the chairman is chosen by the prime minister and you tell them what the budgets are? Why bother?
“The point is to have a process where you have expert advice on pay recommendations, but the government has to make decisions in the round,” the minister said.
The British Medical Association stated its members must strike since the government’s 5% salary offer is below their 35% demand.
The government says it presented a “fair and reasonable opening offer” in salary discussions, but additional strikes halted talks.