I have been contacted by a number of constituents regarding nursing pay.
NHS workers do a fantastic job in extremely difficult circumstances and are well overdue a pay rise.
The determination, professionalism and compassion of staff comes against the backdrop of years of pay restraint. The Royal College of Nursing believes that since 2010 there has been a real-terms drop in earnings of 14% for its members and has said that some nursing staff are now relying on foodbanks and second jobs to make ends meet. I appreciate the huge personal impact the pay freeze is having on some of those affected in our area.
I am concerned that pay restraint has caused severe problems in health recruitment, as young people are put off joining health professions and others simply cannot afford to continue. The NHS's dependency on agency staff has also strengthened the case for a pay increase.
On 30 January 2017, Parliament debated an online petition, signed by more than 100,000 people, on the pay restraint imposed on Agenda for Change NHS staff. I agree with the petition and I support a return to public sector pay agreed through the evidence of independent pay review bodies.
The Government stated in the debate that it has provided evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body and expects its recommendations in the coming weeks. I hope it listens to the concerns that have been raised, as nursing staff, paramedics, midwives and others who care for us should be paid at a level which recognises their skill, training and dedication.