Reacting to Downing Street comments made in advance of the meeting later today (Tuesday) between the health secretary and unions, UNISON head of health Christina McAnea said:
“We’ve been telling the government since last summer they could no longer ignore problems over NHS pay, but this is precisely what ministers have chosen to do.
“Instead of talking tough to the media, the government should be negotiating with the representatives of nurses, midwives, radiographers, hospital cleaners and porters, occupational therapists and other health workers – it’s the only way to resolve this pay dispute.
“Jeremy Hunt has consistently refused to negotiate with the unions and made no attempt to find a solution.
“Caring for patients comes first for health workers – that’s why they’ve chosen to work for the NHS and why they put in so many extra hours each week that they’re not paid for.
“It’s their efforts and hard work that keep the NHS going. This same dedication is why NHS staff reluctantly took strike actionlast year for the first time in over 30 years and why with heavy hearts they’ll be doing so again next week for the third time since October.
“The crisis in the NHS is not of health workers’ making. The last thing they want to do is inconvenience patients, but the cost of denying NHS staff the one per cent pay rise the public knows they deserve is huge.
“Health workers feel taken for granted, their morale is low, years of pay freezes and wages being kept down have made many say they want to leave the NHS. If the health service becomes a place no-one wants to work, it will be the patients that suffer.
“NHS staff are the only group of public servants not to receive the pay rise recommended by their independent pay review body. Jeremy Hunt should put this afternoon’s meeting to good use and start negotiations so that a way can be found to bring an end to the dispute.”
Note to editors: On Thursday 29 January UNISON members in England will walk out for 12 hours from 9am in protest at the government’s refusal to implement the recommendations of the independent NHS pay review body. Members in the ambulance service in England will start their 12 hour action at noon.