Public want NHS staff to get early and significant pay rise

Pay award should be in place before the end of the year

A majority of the public (69%) think all NHS staff should get an early pay rise before the end of this year, according to a UNISON/Savanta ComRes poll published today (Wednesday).

The findings also highlight how two thirds (66%) of the public believe a wage increase for employees – including healthcare assistants, nurses, hospital porters, midwives, paramedics and cleaners – should be significant in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The results send a clear message to the government that there’s substantial public support for a new pay deal to be agreed now for health service workers, many of whom have risked their own safety to protect everyone else, says UNISON.

At the start of the month, UNISON and 13 other health unions – representing more than 1.3 million NHS employees across the UK – urged the Chancellor and Prime Minister to provide the funding for an early pay rise for all staff.

Health workers are currently in the final year of a three-year deal. They’re due a pay rise next April, but unions want the government to show its appreciation for NHS staff by bringing it forward to this year.

However, the government failed to commit to an early pay rise last week when wage increases for 900,000 workers elsewhere in the public sector were announced.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak also warned of restraint in future public sector pay awards in a letter to government departments.

The poll of more than 2,000 people found that almost three quarters (73%) backed an early pay rise for NHS staff between now and the end of March.

Most (69%) think it should be awarded before the end of the year, and nearly two in five (39%) believe the government should increase the pay of NHS staff immediately.

The study found that just one in ten (10%) think health workers should wait until next April for a rise. A minority (6%) believe any wage increase should be postponed until the government judges the time appropriate.

An overwhelming majority of the public (85%) believe pay should increase, including fewer than one in five (19%) who thought NHS staff should only get a small rise. This compared with nearly two in five (39%) who backed a medium increase, and more than a quarter (27%) a large one.

Commenting on the findings, UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said: “Last week was the perfect opportunity for the government to show it’s in tune with public opinion and commit to an early pay rise for NHS staff.

“It’s clear the public backs an early increase and to ignore them would be at the government’s own peril. Any attempt to deny staff a significant wage increase could rebound badly.

“A wage increase needs sorting right away so the NHS is fit to face the winter ahead and all that may bring. It would help boost the economy too, as health workers spend the extra money in their pockets locally.

“Health unions have made a clear and reasonable case – it’s down to the government to act and prove how much it values the NHS and its staff. Enough of hands together – people want to see hands in pockets, and now.”

Support for an early 2020 pay rise was highest among younger adults aged 18-34 (74%), ahead of those aged 35-54 (69%) or aged over 55 (65%).

Women are bigger backers of a significant wage rise for NHS staff, with three in ten (30%) backing a large increase as opposed to just a quarter of men (24%).

Notes to editors:
– The poll was carried out by Savanta ComRes who surveyed 2,085 UK adults between 17 and 19 July 2020. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all UK adults. Savanta ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full tables at
– A number of NHS workers are available to speak to the media including:

Karen Kearney, a bereavement officer at Liverpool Heart & Chest NHS Foundation Trust which took overspill Covid-19 cases from other hospitals. She said: “Visitors weren’t allowed so patients had to come into hospital alone. Often the last time people saw their loved ones was when they came in poorly. It was very difficult and emotional work.

“The government briefings were all about ‘we love the NHS’ and people were cheering for us. But now there’s a sense we’ve been forgotten about. An early pay rise is needed now.”

Darren Tudor-Green, a health care assistant at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital volunteered to look after Covid-19 patients. He said: “We’ve been willing to put our lives on hold and on the line to ensure people get the best possible care when they need it most. “The team in which I work is full of people who, even before the pandemic, put their jobs above everything else. They deserve to be recognised for that. I hope the government can see that we really are the key workers keeping the country running.”

– UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

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