Pay in the NHS is falling behind
Pay in the NHS is now worth between 12% and 18% less than in 2010 because of government pay freezes and below inflation rises.
Meanwhile, private sector pay rises are up to three times higher than for the public sector, leaving the NHS falling further and further behind.
Low pay is still a problem in the NHS
Last year’s pay settlements went some way to helping the lowest paid, but we still have well over 100,000 staff in the NHS earning less than the current Living Wage.
UNISON is working for a better deal
We have asked the Pay Review Body to:
- recommend a catch-up award for NHS staff to start to address what they have lost;
- resist the Treasury’s call for ‘targeting’ of pay rises and make a fair and equitable award for all staff;
- recommend that from 2016 the NHS incorporates the real living wage as a minimum consistently across all four UK countries;
- end poverty pay in the NHS and help protect NHS staff from cuts to their tax credits by creating a ‘roadmap’ for reaching a £10 an hour minimum pay rate;
- to apply an award of at least £1 an hour for all staff;
- recommend a proper pay framework for apprentices in the NHS to protect them from pay exploitation.
The impact of falling pay and staffing levels in the NHS
UNISON’s survey of over 10,500 members in the NHS – Undervalued, overwhelmed – painted a worrying picture for staff, for patients and for the NHS:
- 80% of members have considered leaving their job in the last year – 65% have done so seriously;
- Three quarters of members said falling pay had damaged their morale at work;
- Two thirds said that recruitment and retention difficulties are a significant problem in their workplace, with half saying it had got worse in the past 12 months;
- Nearly two-thirds said that during the last year there had been frequent staff shortages where they work.
Hear from some UNISON members
“This time next year I won’t be able to afford to stay in this job”
Secretary, Band 4 – North West
“I care about the NHS, however it does not care about me”
Admin & clerical worker, Band 4 – Greater London
“Healthcare Professionals, like any other individual, have bills and responsibilities that they must meet. In order to receive an acceptable wage, I must always work on a weekend, and work 7 days per week.”
Social care worker, Band 2 – Northern Ireland
“At the age of 40 I am living with [my] parents because I can’t afford private rent.”
Nurse, Band 6 – Greater London
Letter to Jeremy Hunt from UNISON
UNISON head of health, Christina McAnea has written to Jeremy Hunt:
Dear Secretary of State,
Pay restraint in the NHS – Agenda for Change Staff
I write regarding current pay arrangements for NHS staff on Agenda for Change terms and conditions.
The independent NHS Pay Review Body process has been fettered in recent years. It is disappointing that the pay cap policy of the previous Government has continued and that the NHS PRB is not free to respond to inflationary or market pressures on pay.
It is clear to everyone that the NHS faces difficult challenges, including financial ones. I know you recognise that NHS staff are responding to these challenges, providing the very best of care and support to patients and their families.
Whilst supporting the NHS to meet these challenges, healthcare staff have now sustained six years of pay restraint at great cost to their living standards, and causing great damage to their morale. Pay restraint has resulted in the equivalent annual pay cuts of £2,288 for a cleaner, £2,818 for a Ward Administrator, £4,846 for a Nurse and £6,134 for a Midwife.
The pressures in the service are unprecedented and for staff this means going above and beyond, every hour of every day.
At this difficult time we cannot afford to lose one more member of staff from the NHS. Yet thousands feel forced to leave in search of more manageable work for better
pay. Health Education England figures show that the number of staff leaving the NHS reached 16% last year – a marked increase since 2011.
A decent pay rise now would be a much-needed boost, helping to retain dedicated, experienced staff. It would also help attract the new recruits we so desperately need to fill chronic staffing shortages – shortages set to get worse as a result of Brexit and the removal of the student bursary. A decent pay rise would show NHS staff that their 100% effort is valued at more than 1% and would make it easier to reduce the costly and wasteful spending on agency staff which continues to drain money from the system.
The Government has a choice. You can choose to restore the independence of the well-regarded Pay Review Body system to make the pay recommendations it believes are needed to maintain recruitment and retention at the levels the service needs. Or you can allow the current, unsustainable staffing situation to spiral out of control.
Choosing to perpetuate pay restraint may seem like a short-term saving but it is costing the NHS dearly. I ask you to consider the long-term implications of the current approach and urge you to change tactics.
National Secretary, Healthcare