Proper investment in NHS staff is essential for both the UK’s economic success and if there’s to be any hope of filling record staff vacancies, health unions say today (Friday).
A new report, compiled on behalf of 14 unions representing more than a million health workers in England, makes clear rebuilding the NHS workforce will be impossible without the fair, sustained wage rises central to recruiting and hanging on to staff.
The unions also call for action from the government in the 2024/25 pay round to tackle the wage and staffing issues crucial to cutting the treatment backlog and giving patients the quality care they deserve.
The report Supporting UK’s Economic Growth: The Case for NHS Pay is being published today, coinciding with the day on which the NHS pay review body’s initial call for evidence closes. NHS staff are due a pay rise from 1 April, but the review body is already months behind schedule because the government began the process so late, say the unions.
A decent wage increase in this round, backed by a clear strategy on NHS pay recovery, are essential to filling gaping staff shortages, expanding the health workforce and improving economic prosperity the report says.
Then a greater number of patients could be seen and more work done to prevent health deterioration, allowing the thousands currently off sick and awaiting treatment to return to the labour market and stay fit for work.
The unions – representing ambulance staff, nurses, porters, radiographers, clinical support workers, dieticians, podiatrists, physiotherapists and other NHS employees in England – want the government to tackle the declining value of NHS pay, and ensure health workers are fairly paid for the roles they perform.
They say a funding and pay strategy must be put in place to underpin the much-needed workforce plan. Otherwise understaffing will continue, more health workers will leave, patient care suffer and waiting lists soar.
Chair of the NHS group of unions and UNISON acting head of health Helga Pile said: “There’s a clear link between rising waiting lists and the staffing emergency being felt in every part of the NHS in England.
“Investing in pay and improving working conditions are the ways to keep experienced employees in their jobs and attract new recruits. In turn that means patients are more likely to get the care they need and get it more quickly.
“But it also makes economic sense too. When health workers have more money in their pockets, they tend to spend it on their local high streets, supporting local businesses. And if the NHS had more staff, it would be able to treat a larger number of people. Falling sickness rates would enable the wider workforce to grow and economic benefits to flow across the country.”
Secretary of the NHS group of unions and Chartered Society of Physiotherapy assistant director of employment relations Elaine Sparkes said: “NHS staff need an above-inflation pay rise to begin to address the years of cuts that have had such a detrimental effect, especially during the cost-of-living crisis.
“The lack of fair pay has also exacerbated the workforce crisis at a time when the NHS can least afford to be so short of staff.
“An above-inflation pay rise would help recruit and retain the staff the NHS desperately needs. If the government wants to make a dent in the record waiting lists, then ministers must listen to the staff that know the NHS best.”
Notes to editors:
– The document Supporting UK Economic Growth: The Case for NHS Pay 2024 can be viewed here.
– The 14 NHS unions are: British Association of Occupational Therapists, British Dietetic Association, British Orthoptic Society, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, Royal 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.