NHS Pay, vaccine diplomacy and £37bn gone without a trace

Row over NHS pay intensifies

The backlash over the Government’s decision to raise NHS pay by only 1% has rumbled on for a second week. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has challenged the Prime Minister to put it to a vote in Parliament, saying that: ‘Even his own MPs know he’s got this wrong’. Boris Johnson has previously said that the 1% rise is all the Government can afford to give.

An independent review body will make its recommendations on NHS salaries in May. Whilst the Prime Minister is unlikely to reject the recommendation, any further pay increase would likely result in cuts elsewhere. Labour have promised to back whatever the independent review body suggest, which could prove problematic with the Trade Unions who are deeply opposed to what they have called an ‘insult’.

‘No clear impact’ from £37bn Test and Trace

MPs have warned that ‘no clear impact’ can yet be seen from the Test and Trace system. The Public Accounts Committee cited that it was set up to avoid future lockdowns, but two lockdowns have since been called. Chair of the Committee, Meg Hillier MP, commented that: ‘The promise on which this huge expense was justified – avoiding another lockdown – has been broken, twice’. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the report ‘defies logic’.

The Test and Trace system has certainly failed to prevent further lockdowns, with the relatively small cost of its implementation compared to the economic cost of lockdowns being a major factor behind continued investment. The UK now has a testing capacity on a par with or better than all comparable countries, but turnaround targets have consistently been missed and tracers have often had little to do, despite case numbers remaining high for a number of months during the last quarter of 2020.

EU sparks vaccine outcry

The EU has come under intense criticism after Italy, with the backing of Brussels, blocked a shipment of 250,000 vaccines bound to Australia. This is the first-time rules introduced by the EU in January, requiring vaccine manufacturers to declare exports to some countries outside of the bloc, have been used.

The episode is symptomatic of a wider issue of vaccine nationalism. So far, 51% of pre-purchased vaccines have been reserved for countries with only 14% of the global population. In January 2021, the WHO warned of ‘catastrophic moral failure’, citing that at the time, one lowest-income country has only administered 25 doses. The pandemic is a global issue and to ward against the threat of variants eluding vaccines, countries must work together to ensure equitable distribution based on need rather than wealth.

Charlie Souster Account Executive

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