Decent pay rise vital to ensure the NHS is fighting fit post-pandemic, say unions 

New health secretary Sajid Javid must prioritise pay

Health unions have written to new health secretary Sajid Javid stressing the crucial importance of pay in ensuring the NHS is ‘fighting fit’ to deal with its many post-pandemic challenges.

The letter – signed by the heads of UNISON, the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives – is on behalf of 14 unions representing more than a million NHS staff across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Now the NHS pay review body report is with the secretary of state for consideration, the unions say all eyes are on the government as health workers and the public await the outcome of the pay round.

The text says: “After the unprecedented challenges of the past 15 months, NHS staff are exhausted and well in need of a boost.

“A proper pay rise would help stem flagging morale. It would also persuade those staff who feel ready to throw in the towel to stay around and see the NHS through the next few difficult years.”

The unions go on to say that they know the health secretary understands “the seriousness of the situation and the repercussions the government’s crucial decision [on pay] will have upon services, staff and patients”.

The letter continues: “A significant pay rise would help health workers feel valued and let them know their efforts during the pandemic have not gone unnoticed.

“It would also signal the government’s commitment to addressing the huge backlog of appointments, treatments and operations cancelled to allow the NHS to focus on Covid.

“With almost five million treatments on its ‘to do’ list, the NHS needs a decent pay rise to prevent staff shortages becoming more acute as health workers leave for better paid roles elsewhere.”

The union letter acknowledges that pay is not the only reason people join or leave the health service but says it is a major factor. A decent wage rise “would help prevent a post-pandemic exodus as the economy recovers and job vacancies open up elsewhere”.

It continues: “Extra money in the pockets, purses and wallets of hospital cleaners, nurses, healthcare assistants, midwives, porters, paramedics and all their NHS colleagues would be spent in every high street and retail park in the land.”

The letter ends with the unions acknowledging the new health secretary shares their “fervent wish to ensure the NHS is supported to face the challenges ahead”.

The unions also ask to meet with Sajid Javid “as a matter of urgency to discuss the vital role a pay rise would play in putting the NHS into recovery mode”.

Notes to editors:
– The letter is signed by UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea, Royal College of Nursing acting general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen, and Royal College of Midwives chief executive and general secretary Gill Walton.
– The 14 NHS unions are: British Association of Occupational Therapists, British Dietetic Association, British and Irish Orthoptic Society, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, College of Podiatry, Federation of Clinical Scientists, GMB, Managers in Partnership, Prison Officers Association, Royal College of Midwives, Royal College of Nursing, Society of Radiographers, UNISON and Unite.
– Health workers were due a pay rise in April but are still waiting. Their previous three-year deal expired on 31 March. The government proposed a 1% pay increase to the NHS pay review body, which has now delivered its report to the government. It means NHS staff are not likely to get a pay rise until July at the earliest.

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