Editor of conservative Spectator magazine praises Mark Drakeford for ‘leadership’ on refusing nurses’ pay demands
Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford has received backing from a rather unexpected direction, with an avowedly conservative columnist praising him for setting out the case against giving nurses the money they are asking for.
Writing in the Telegraph, Fraser Nelson, the editor of the right-wing magazine The Spectator, lambasted the Conservative UK Government for not making the case against hiking NHS pay.
But Fraser Nelson said that the one person who had effectively set out the case against a pay rise was Mark Drakeford.
“The leadership on pay talks is coming from Mark Drakeford, the First Minister of Wales,” Fraser Nelson said.
“Giving nurses more pay, he said yesterday, means ‘fewer treatments, fewer nurses, less money for the health service’. If a Labour leader can talk candidly about trade-offs, why can’t the Conservatives?”
Nurses across Wales – as well as in England and Northern Ireland – have been on strike over pay and conditions on Tuesday and Thursday of last week.
In an interview with BBC Wales on Sunday, the First Minister told the programme that his government’s hands were tied because he can’t “grow the envelope” of money afforded to him in Westminster
He said that the sum of money the Welsh Government received for public services and pay was “a consequence of the decisions” made for England by ministers there.
“We do not have the money to be able to increase our pay offer, while the UK Government refuses to put more money into the pay bill in England,” he said.
Mr Drakeford noted how the Welsh Government could have taken funds available to run to health service to “pay nurses that money instead”.
“That would have meant fewer treatments, fewer nurses, less money for the health service itself. Now, you could say we should have done that. We chose not to. We’re accountable for that decision,” he added.
The Royal College of Nursing has said that the Welsh Government must find a way to resolve the strike action without any further additional financial help from the UK Government.
Helen Whyley, Royal College of Nursing Wales director, said that “NHS Wales pay is a Welsh Government decision. Health care services are devolved.”
She added: “The First Minister has said in the past he believes in devolution because it allows Welsh solutions to Welsh problems. This is Mark Drakeford government’s opportunity to do just that.
“I am calling on the Welsh Government to make a genuine commitment to improving the current pay award and to meet with the Royal College of Nursing to resolve this dispute. The Welsh Government must find a way forward with or without additional funding from the UK Government.
“Nursing staff have endured years of real term pay cuts which has led to frightening levels of understaffing. This has a significant impact on patient care and why this dispute is about pay and safe nurse staffing levels.
“The nursing workforce is fundamental to the provision of NHS services to the people of Wales. Hospitals, beds, and equipment are nothing without qualified and skilled staff to care for patients.
“As we approach the end of 2022 and a New Year it is bitterly disappointing that the Royal College of Nursing is being forced to consider announcing further strike dates.
“I urge the First Minister to respond to positively to my letter inviting talks.”
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