Put NHS pay right to stop NHS staff quitting amid cost-of-living ‘apocalypse’, says UNISON

This is a desperate situation with NHS staff already quitting in their droves.

UNISON has today (Wednesday) written to Sajid Javid urging significant action on pay to stop the exodus of health service staff as they face ‘a cost-of-living apocalypse’.

The union warns that the NHS workforce is in crisis and the consequence of more employees quitting will be “longer ambulance queues outside hospitals, ever-increasing waiting lists and people who are in desperate need of treatment getting sicker”.

This worsening scenario is outlined in the letter sent to the health and social care secretary. The union has also sought support from Amanda Pritchard at NHS England, Danny Mortimer at NHS Employers, Chris Hopson at NHS Providers and Philippa Hird, who chairs the NHS pay review body.

More than 35,000 health staff and members of the public have signed an online version of the letter. In it, they appeal for all health workers to be paid fairly​, both for the job they do and for every hour ​they work.

To get their message across, NHS staff will pose ​later today (Wednesday) outside UNISON’s headquarters in London with a giant envelope addressed to Sajid Javid ​featuring a ​special ‘put NHS pay right’ stamp​.

The NHS faces an exodus of ​workers​, which has major implications for patient care, ​says UNISON. The letter from the union says action is needed desperately “to stop more dedicated, hardworking but exhausted staff leaving the health service this year”.

It continues: “We are asking you to put NHS pay right. What every NHS employee needs – from nurses and paramedics to porters and healthcare assistants – is a decent wage rise and genuine measures to convince them to stay.”

The union highlights in the letter that if more staff leave the NHS then “those left behind will find it tougher to provide the standards of care patients rightly expect”.

It continues: “Staff are vital to achieving a fully functioning post-pandemic NHS. Without investment in the workforce, patients will end up paying the price.”

UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said: “This is a desperate situation with NHS staff already quitting in their droves. The government can no longer put its head in the sand over this crisis.

“It’s patients who will suffer when there are too few staff to provide proper care. Ministers must ensure workers are encouraged to stay with an above-inflation wage rise and an end to poverty pay.”

Notes to editors:
– Pictures will be available from the press office of staff and UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea posing with the giant envelope, which measures 1.5 metres wide and 2.25 metres long.
– Comments from health workers who have shared their cost-of-living experiences include:
“I’m living in fear of the next bill, or rise in food and petrol. My family is living hand to mouth. My heart sank when the council tax bill came yesterday. I’ve worked for the NHS for 30 years and never felt poorer.”
“I’m having to skip lunch and only have two meals a day. Electricity bills have risen so much I put extra (clothing) layers on. And it’s only going to get worse.”
“I’m having to work extra shifts just to cover my bills. I’m in debt to my energy provider from using electric storage heaters over winter.”
“I work full-time but I’m unable to think about moving out of my parental home to rent a place of my own, let alone think about a mortgage.”
“As a community nurse, I’ve recently had mileage capped. The cost of fuel has dramatically increased and many of us are struggling to pay the price increase. It’s costing us to come to work and many nurses will unfortunately have to leave the profession.”
– UNISON says staff should be paid in line with the position set out in evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body by the joint NHS unions. More details on the joint-union campaign can be found here.
– 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.