UNISON survey shows financial reality of life as as NHS worker

A new survey by UNISON, the UK’s biggest health trade union, reveals that one in five NHS workers need more than one job to make ends meet, with some working up to 26 extra hours a week.

The online survey of 3,366 UNISON members starkly reveals the financial strain health workers are under. More than one in two (54%) of those who responded said they are overdrawn every month and half said they wouldn’t survive without a second source of income.

Some of those who rely on a back-up job have taken on extra work as a lifeguard, tourist guide, exam invigilator, farm worker, hairdresser, driving instructor, gardener, delivery driver, dog groomer and maintenance worker.

Some said they started their own businesses or did extra shifts in hospitals – even though this was often at a lower rate – as their NHS salary wasn’t enough for them to live on.

Despite this, half said they have to borrow to make ends meet. Nearly six out of ten (57%) rely on credit cards, 41% on friends and family, 37% turn to bank loans and 13% had to resort to pay day loans.

Christina McAnea, UNISON Head of Health, said: “The Government is refusing to acknowledge that there is a real poverty problem affecting NHS workers.

“A demotivated, stressed workforce is bad for patients and bad for the NHS.

“In Britain today, we have NHS workers struggling to buy food, pay for their bills and who as a result fall into a cycle of debt and despair. Morale in the NHS is at an all time low.

“NHS workers work day in day out to provide vital care and support for millions of patients so they deserve fair pay. A full time hospital cleaner should not have to deliver pizzas after work to make ends meet.

“It’s time NHS workers get a fair deal for the invaluable work they do. The Government needs to step back from the brink and reconsider its pay policy urgently.”

The survey also reveals that two thirds of those who responded had to cut on food, 51% reduce their energy usage, 44% cut on transport.

A massive 80% and 90% had to cut back on holidays and leisure, leaving them with little opportunity to recuperate.

UNISON members working in the NHS will be staging a four-hour stoppage between 7am and 11am on Monday 13 October in England. This will be followed by an action short of strike action between Tuesday 15 and Friday 17 October when workers will ensure they take their breaks.


UNISON Press  Office – Fatima Ayad on 0207 121 5255 or pressoffice2@unison.co.uk

About the survey

The online survey was sent to a random sample of 18,000 UNISON members working in the NHS in September . 3,366 responded.

The sample:

40% in the nursing family
32% admin staff
66% of those who responded are women
25% aged between 35 and 44
36% aged between 45 and 54