Strong public support for NHS staff pay rise, says survey

Strong public support for NHS staff pay rise, says survey

28 September 2017

There is overwhelming public support for removing the government’s cap on NHS pay, according to survey results released today (Thursday 28 September) by 14 NHS unions.

The survey of over 2,000 people by ComRes asked if they supported removal of the cap on pay for NHS staff. A large majority (84%) supported scrapping the cap.

As well as supporting lifting the pay cap, over four in five (83%) support increasing pay for all NHS staff to meet or exceed the cost of living (the retail price index (RPI) measure of inflation).

The RPI measure of inflation recently hit a high of 3.9% per cent. In response the NHS unions called for a 3.9% pay award for NHS staff in line with RPI. NHS unions are also calling for an additional £800 to restore some of the pay lost by NHS staff over the past seven years.

In answer to another question 69% of the public supported NHS staff being paid an additional £800 on top of a pay increase that is in line with RPI inflation. This is to account for the last seven years of pay restraint.
There was also strong public support (73%) for making more funding available so the NHS pay review body can recommend a pay award higher than 1% if the government lift the pay cap. 

A majority of the public (77%) also thought that low pay was one of the reasons for many staff leaving the NHS. A similar proportion (74%) thought that low pay was also a factor in young people not choosing careers in the NHS.

Unite head of health Sarah Carpenter said: “Unite knows how much the NHS is valued and respected, and the results of this survey prove that beyond a shadow of a doubt. 

“We need a fully funded NHS, and our NHS staff need a fully funded, decent pay rise.  How long will it take for this government to take responsibility for the mess it has created and start to put it right?  It’s about respect – for staff, for patients, for people – and so far we have seen none.”

Royal College of Midwives director for employment relations and communications, Jon Skewes, said: “This clearly shows how much the public value our hard working midwives and other NHS staff.  This government refuses to acknowledge that NHS staff have essentially had seven years of successive pay cuts, and it has also refuses to fund a fair pay award. What the government need to understand is that investment in NHS staff is an investment in the service the NHS gives.  We need a change in policy to give NHS staff fair pay and it must be funded by government.”
Unison head of health, Sara Gorton said: “This poll shows that the government needs to stop the excuses and start listening to public opinion. Just talking about selectively lifting the pay cap isn’t good enough – the government must provide funding for the fair pay award the public wants to see. People value and rely on the NHS so they understand that we cannot go on like this. They see the damage to staffing levels brought on by year after year of pay cuts.  Hard-pressed NHS staff from all disciplines goes above and beyond every day to keep services running – it’s time for the government to show it values them enough to invest in them.”

Royal College of Nursing director of member relations, Chris Cox said: “This makes it clear how much ministers are out of touch with public opinion, which supports our campaign. They should listen to what the public are telling them, scrap the pay cap and help to recruit thousands more nurses for a safer NHS. Experienced nursing staff are leaving in droves - not because they don’t like the job, but because they can’t afford to stay, while the next generation do not see their future in an under-valued profession."

Society of Radiographers, industrial relations manager, Paul Moloney, said: “It is clear that the public fully recognise the need for Radiographers and everyone else employed in the NHS to have a fair pay increase. One that not only keeps pace with inflation but begins to make up what has been lost as a result of government policy over the last seven years. Government must now recognise the public as well as the unions are demanding they lift the cap, fund an increase for all in the NHS and start treating radiographers and their colleagues with respect.”

Chartered Society of Physiotherapy assistant director of employment relations Peter Finch said:  “Lifting the pay cap without ensuring adequate funding would be an empty gesture. The message from the public is clear, it`s time to ensure all NHS Staff are fairly rewarded for the critical work they do.”
GMB national officer for the NHS, Kevin Brandstatter said: "The finding of the ComRes survey are welcome and confirm the outcome of GMB polling earlier this year.  The public regard the NHS as the ‘jewel in the crown" of public services. Seven years of pay freeze and pay cap have cost GMB members thousands of pounds.  The public recognise that public service workers undertaking particularly traumatic roles, involving tragedies like the Grenfell Tower, deserve a significant pay rise.  It’s time the Government recognised this too and fully funded the trade unions pay claim."
Notes to editors
The survey by ComRes was commissioned by the Royal College of Midwives and funded by 14 NHS unions. The full survey results can be read at

The NHS unions are: British Association of Dietitians, British Association of Occupational Therapists, British and Irish Orthoptic Society, Chartered Society of Physiotherapists, Federation of Clinical Scientists, GMB, Managers in Partnership, POA (union for prison, correctional and secure psychiatric workers), Royal College of Midwives, Royal College of Nursing, Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, Society of Radiographers, UNISON and Unite.

The NHS pay review body was introduced in 1986.
About the survey

ComRes interviewed 2,032 adults aged 18+ in Great Britain online between 15th and 17th September 2017. Data were weighted by age, gender, region and socio-economic grade to be representative of all GB adults aged 18+.

Survey Questions
Q1. Pay rises for public sector workers are reviewed by independent pay review bodies. Between 2010 and 2013, the Government froze pay since when it has been capped at 1%. The Government says this has been done to maintain spending in other areas. The Government have announced they intend to lift the public sector pay cap for the police and prison officers. To what extent would you support or oppose the removal of this cap for NHS staff e.g. nurses, midwives, paramedics?
Q2. If the Government makes an announcement that they will lift the policy of the pay cap in the NHS, do you think the Government should also increase the funding available for the NHS pay review body to recommend an award higher than 1%?
Q3. If the pay cap was removed, to what extent would you support or oppose a pay increase for all NHS staff in line with or above the cost of living (RPI inflation)?
Q4. Which of the following do you think are or are not a significant consequence of low pay in the NHS?
Q5. To what extent do you support or oppose NHS staff being paid an increase to their pay that is in line with the cost of living (RPI inflation) plus a flat rate of £800 to take account of the loss of value of pay caused by seven years of pay restraint?

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065 Email: 

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.