NHS employers need to pay staff fairly or face strike action

Rebanding campaign has now won £80m in back pay for staff

NHS managers must ensure health workers are on the correct salary bands for the jobs they do and avoid the need for further strike action this year, says UNISON today (Friday).

Since 2021, the union has taken an employer-by-employer approach to help healthcare assistants across the UK win wage rises, including around £80m in back pay, to make up for years of being paid significantly less than they should have been.

UNISON’s Fair Pay for Patient Care campaign has prompted salary boosts for nearly 36,000 healthcare assistants and other clinical support workers, because their salaries have increasingly failed to reflect their more complex job responsibilities.

According to NHS guidance, healthcare assistants on the lowest agenda for change salaries (band 2) should only be providing personal care like bathing and feeding patients.

But support staff have been routinely undertaking more involved clinical tasks, says UNISON, including taking and monitoring blood, and performing electrocardiogram tests. This should have pushed their roles into a higher (band 3) bracket, which is worth almost £2,000 a year more.

Some NHS employers have acted to end this unfair wage discrepancy, says UNISON. They’ve lifted support staff on to the next band up and awarded back pay as compensation for when they’ve been doing more complicated tasks but without the appropriate salary.

Elsewhere, it’s taken weeks of industrial action to secure the correct wages and back pay for support staff, says UNISON.

More than 40 deals have now been secured by the Fair Pay for Patient Care campaign. Successes include Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridge Community Services NHS Trust and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust.

UNISON, which is holding its annual national conference in Brighton this week, is now urging other NHS employers to do the right thing and pay healthcare assistants the money they’re rightfully owed.

Talks are currently ongoing to try to resolve a dispute involving support staff at two trusts on Teesside, says UNISON. And at the start of the week, hundreds of workers at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth walked out for the first time in their rebanding dispute. Elsewhere, healthcare assistants employed by Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust are due to strike in the coming weeks.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Years of tight financial settlements have left the NHS in a precarious state. But that’s no reason not to pay staff the correct wages for the important jobs they do.

“Keeping healthcare assistants on the lowest NHS pay band, when the complex jobs they do call for a higher rate, is a false economy.

“If staff don’t feel valued and believe they’re being taken advantage of, they’re much less likely to stay working in the NHS. And with more handsome salaries on offer elsewhere, experienced health employees are being needlessly lost from the NHS.

“All trusts should do the right thing and ensure they’re paying their entire workforce fairly. Managers shouldn’t leave it until a strike is called before deciding to act.

“No one wants to take action, lose a day’s wages and create disruption for patients. But if that’s what it takes, then that’s what staff will do to win fair pay for patient care.”

Notes to editors:
– Click here for full details of the Pay Fair for Patient Care campaign.
Case studies
–”Staff have been working over and above their band 2 duties every day, performing tasks that aren’t supposed to be part of their role.” Hollie, healthcare assistant, Neath Port Talbot
“I have five children so the back pay and wage rise will be a massive help. The whole pay campaign has made me feel more valued for the work I do.” Danielle, healthcare assistant, East Cheshire
“We’d been left with no option but to strike. Staff just want to be banded correctly and paid fairly for the work they do. For years, people have worked beyond their band without the correct wage. Failure to resolve this issue is not an option.” Max, theatre assistant, Plymouth
– 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.

Media contacts:
Anthony Barnes M: 07834 864794 E: a.barnes@unison.co.uk
Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: l.chinchen@unison.co.uk