The passion, commitment, and specialist knowledge of our NHS staff is part of what makes our NHS so special. I have had my life saved on more than one occasion - including from a brain tumour - by our outstanding NHS staff, I will forever be in debt to them.
I understand concerns surrounding pay increases and I have been assured the Government has tried to give NHS staff as much as it can at the present time. For 2021/22, all but the lowest paid workers across the public sector have had their pay frozen. I know that the Government rightly wanted to recognise the efforts of NHS staff during this hugely difficult period and have gone as far as they can during a time where public finances are under significant strain.
In addition, over one million NHS staff also continue to benefit from multi-year pay deals agreed with trade unions, including a pay rise of over 12 per cent for newly qualified nurses, with the average nurse pay now £34,000 per year, and that junior doctors' pay be increased by 8.2 per cent by 2024.
I know that the Independent Pay Review Bodies will make recommendations in late Spring, when they will be considered by the Government. It is right that the Government does not pre-empt these recommendations.
The Government continues to aspire for NHS to be the safest, highest quality healthcare system in the world. Over the past decade, there have been over 14,000 more doctors and over 13,000 more nurses on our wards.
I also welcome the investment that the Government has recently made in the NHS workforce, including £513m in professional development and increased recruitment, £30m on staff mental health support including wellbeing hubs and occupational health support, along with introducing a nurses' bursary which provides at least £5,000 of additional support to nursing students.
NHS staff are playing a crucial role in the national effort to combat coronavirus - and we owe them an enormous gratitude for all they are doing. I know the Government is committed to supporting all staff now and in the future.