He told delegates at the RCN Congress on Tuesday that if elected next month he would ‘turn the NHS on is head' and put nurses at the heart of any changes. He said the NHS would not survive unless staff are listened to.
‘You should be telling us how to run the NHS, not central bureaucrats hidden behind closed doors who do not know how to cut the fat without cutting into the services people need,' he said.
Mr Clegg also pledged to cap chief executive pay so that none earn more than the prime minster, and said the Liberal Democrats would limit public sector pay rises to £400 in an attempt to share the ‘little money there is more fairly'.
He added: ‘We reject the Conservative idea of a blanket pay freeze for all registered nurses. We also reject the idea from Labour that you give a 1 per cent pay rise to everyone, which would mean an extra £1,000 for chief executive on £100,000, but just £190 extra for a nurse just starting out in their career.'
‘Nurses earning less than £40,000 will be better off under our pay plans than under either of the other two parties.'
Mr Clegg also said he believes there is a need for a reform of public sector pensions, but promised not to eat into the entitlements that nurses have already built up.
Meanwhile, he also reiterated plans to ‘cut bureaucracy, streamline quangos, scrap SHAs, cut PCT management costs back, and decentralise the NHS by cutting the DoH in half'.
Mr Clegg repeated plans to replace PCTs with locally elected health boards to make them more accountable to the local population.
Dr Peter Carter, RCN chief executive and general secretary, said the idea that no chief executive would be paid more than the prime minister ‘was bound to get a good response'.
He said: ‘That kind of thing is quite useful. However, in great scheme of things, I don't think it will save a lot of money. That's not what this is about. This is about a much bigger picture. So I would like to have seen more detail about which structures are going to be taken out and what they are going to do.
‘Let's start hearing that kind of detail and I think that would help to go forward.'