Health minister's 'breathtaking sexism' over NHS nurses' pay rise sparks anger

Health Minister and Mid Bedfordshire MP Nadine Dorries

Health Minister and Mid Bedfordshire MP Nadine Dorries has sparked a public outcry over 'sexist' comments regarding nurses' proposed one per cent pay rise - Credit: UK Parliament

A health minister who is the MP for Mid Bedfordshire is at the centre of a public backlash against sexism, with concerns she has suggested the government protecting husbands' pay will help nurses understand their one per cent pay rise.

Health minister Nadine Dorries - whose constituency includes Shefford, Clifton and Meppershall - spoke on BBC Women's Hour last week about the government's proposed one per cent pay rise for nurses, which is now being considered by the independent NHS Pay Body Review.

Her comments have been widely construed as sexist, and her view archaic, prompting a public outcry.

She said:  "If I could quote a nurse manager of a vaccine centre, she said to me, 'We have two children in our house, two wages coming in and one mortgage going out. If I had to choose between my husband being furloughed until the autumn or a pay rise, I would choose my husband being furloughed any day because now we have the security that our mortgage can be paid,' and she also said, 'I completely get it'."

Nadine, a former nurse, continued: "We have had unprecedented pressure on the nation's purse strings. We have to make tough choices. One was to do that [the one per cent pay rise] and continue furlough, and I do think most nurses get it. They know they have partners, they have husbands, they get it."

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The Royal College of Nursing's Feminist Network founder, Leanne Patrick, said: "She fails to recognise nurses are not a homogenous group of married women with employed husbands; many are single mothers, disabled or working part-time to juggle childcare commitments.

"It simply isn't appropriate to expect women to be dependent on men to eat, pay the bills and care for their families."

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Palliative care doctor Rachel Clarke added: "Absolutely beyond belief that in 2021 - three days after International Women's Day - she suggested nurses' 1% pay offer is somehow made OK by their husbands' pay. The underlying sexism is breathtaking."

Nadine said: "My comments were, and still are, that continuing furlough until the autumn, protecting people’s jobs and business grants had to be our priority."

She also tweeted that she has switched comments off on her Twitter feed due to the torrent of abuse.

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