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Nurses and doctors should not be forgotten as top scientists get knighted, warns RCN

HEALTH workers must not be forgotten for their hard work during the pandemic, nurses union RCN warned yesterday, as leading scientists received knighthoods in the New Year’s Honours list.

England’s chief medical officer (CMO), Professor Chris Whitty, deputy CMO Jonathan Van-Tam and Wales’ and Scotland’s CMOs, Frank Atherton and Dr Gregor Smith, have been given the title following the rollout of the vaccination programme.

There are also damehoods for UK Health Security Agency chief Dr Jenny Harries, and Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) chief executive Dr June Raine.

The government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, who was originally knighted in the 2019 New Year Honours list, is elevated to a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath.

The Cabinet Office said nearly one in five of all the honours awarded this year are for Covid-related services.

Just 15.1 per cent of recipients are from an ethnic minority background, slightly higher than the line-up in June, and only 35.9 per cent of recipients at CBE level and above are women.

Royal College of Nursing president Dr Denise Chaffer sent her deepest congratulations to all the nursing and healthcare staff who have been recognised on the list.

But GMB national officer Rachel Harrison said that while it is right to recognise the contributions of top officials, NHS workers “are being asked to swallow a pay cut despite their heroic efforts during the pandemic.”

She said: “A 3 per cent pay offer does not restore a decade of real-terms pay cuts or their efforts during the pandemic.

“It is below inflation and will not cover the proposed increase in National Insurance and pensions contributions.

“NHS workers deserve a real, restorative pay increase, not this derisory package of below-inflation pay changes and higher costs.”

Keep Our NHS Public co-chairman Dr Tony O’Sullivan said that NHS workers and care staff need “wage value restored not gongs for their leaders.”

He said: “The government honours its top public servants, but has deeply dishonoured the 1.5 million NHS staff across the four nations.

“The NHS once again is left to hold the line while Johnson goes AWOL, lets England run out of Covid tests, encourages everyone to party through the New Year while lying about his own parties, and delivers a guaranteed boost to the omicron wave — as deaths shoot past 300 in a day.”

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