Pay rise immediately would reassure undervalued staff to stay in NHS

Government’s approach to NHS pay is forcing workers to question their future

A huge majority of NHS staff say the government doesn’t value their extraordinary efforts ​during the pandemic, according to a UNISON survey​ published today (Monday).

As health workers come under increasing strain because of the​ rise in infections and hospital admissions,​ many say they are considering their future in the NHS, the survey finds.

More than 10,000 health service staff from across the UK took part in the research, which has also been used as part of evidence submitted by UNISON to the NHS pay review body. The union is calling on the government to give all NHS workers a pay rise of at least £2,000.

Publication of the survey results comes as UNISON and the UK’s 13 other health unions have written to the Prime Minister, urging him to speed up the pay process so NHS staff receive a promised wage rise as soon as possible.

Earlier today the unions published the results of a poll showing a majority of the public (53%) think the government should bring forward a wage increase for all NHS staff.

The UNISON survey reveals that health workers feel deeply dissatisfied with their treatment, with only one in ten (10%) saying the government values NHS staff. More than four out in five (85%) say they are angry at how NHS staff are being treated by ministers.

Almost two thirds (64%) said the government’s approach to NHS pay – ignoring calls for an early and significant pay rise in recognition of the difficulties staff have faced in the past year – makes them question their future in the health service.

Many staff are at breaking point says UNISON, often working long back-to-back shifts to deal with worsening staff shortages and packed hospitals as infections soar.

A pay rise would provide reassurance and comfort to staff and help them feel more valued, the survey shows. Nine in ten (91%) say a £2,000 pay increase would be a morale boost, while 95% say it would make a “meaningful difference”.

According to the survey, a pay rise awarded now would reassure many that their efforts are being recognised. More than four fifths (83%) say it would make them feel confident to continue working in the NHS.

If the government invested in pay, it would help turn the disillusionment of staff around, says UNISON. Positive moves from the Scottish government last year – including a bonus and commitment to an early and backdated pay rise – are reflected in lower rates of anger and disenchantment in the survey for Scottish NHS staff than for those elsewhere in the UK.

UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said: “Time and again ministers remind the public about protecting the NHS. The government can show how to do just that by investing properly in the staff looking after us all.

“Many are beyond exhausted and feel let down by politicians who expect health workers to give everything but show them little in return.

“A rise of £2,000 as soon as possible would persuade many NHS staff to stay and encourage others to consider a career in health.

“The Prime Minister should speed up the pay process to give vital NHS staff what they deserve quickly. Extra money in their pockets will mean more spending in local economies, giving a huge boost to the recovery when the lockdown begins to ease.”

Notes to editors:
– Health workers across the UK are nearing the end of a three-year pay deal. They should be due a pay rise in April, but UNISON and other health unions want this brought forward to show appreciation for NHS employees.
-The NHS pay review body is not due to report until May, and devolved governments can’t act sooner as they are reliant on funding decisions based on this process. This means that NHS staff are not likely to get a pay rise until June at the earliest, says UNISON.
– The government has said any increase must be determined by ‘affordability’ and chancellor Rishi Sunak has warned of restraint in future public sector pay awards.
– The UNISON survey ran for a month from Friday 11 December – 10,500 NHS staff took part.
– Other key findings from the UNISON survey include:
More than half (52%) said they are considering leaving the NHS in the next year. Of those considering leaving, 44% want to bring forward retirement plans and 22% say the pandemic makes them want to leave ‘whatever happens’. A third (34%) have asked for financial support from family or friends.
– The survey report can be accessed here.
– 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, private and community sectors.

Media contacts:
Anthony Barnes M: 07834 864794 E:
Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: