Unite Scotland has today (19 August) released findings from a mass survey of NHS Scotland workers during the Covid-19 pandemic, which highlights that the nation’s health service workforce is at ‘breaking point’. 

Unite Scotland released the findings from a survey conducted between 24th June to 31st July. The trade union is highlighting that NHS Scotland workers by large majorities face acute staff shortages, regularly work beyond their contracted hours and don’t feel valued in general by their employer. 

The main findings of the survey, which 2198 Unite Scotland members completed highlight:

  • 83% - frequently or sometimes experience staff shortages.
  • 79% - regularly or occasionally work beyond their contracted hours.
  • 51% - don’t feel valued as an NHS worker.

Unite is stating that the survey findings should act as a ‘wake-up call’ for the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland health authorities as the nation's health service workers face enormous pressures and challenges due to the pandemic. The trade union is also demanding that the survey findings should guide the re-opening of NHS pay talks as health workers put their lives on the line. The current NHS pay order of August 2018 allowed for pay talks to be re-opened through a trigger clause, which Unite says must now be used due to the pandemic and the pay disparity which exists among public sector workers. Over 60% of NHS Scotland staff who are at the top of their pay band have been paid less than our other public sector workers over the three-year period. 

The Cabinet Secretary for Health, Jeane Freeman MSP, has offered to start negotiations on future pay, however, to date she has refused to use the trigger clause despite a plea by Unite to reassess NHS Scotland pay immediately.  On the back of the survey findings Unite Scotland is calling for Jeane Freeman to re-open pay negotiations to address concerns over the lack of value placed on the work NHS Scotland workers are performing.
James O’Connell, Unite regional officer said: “The mass survey findings of 2,200 NHS Scotland workers should be a wake-up call for all involved in the management of the nation’s health service. Around four out of every five NHS worker is working beyond their contracted hours, and experiencing acute staff shortages. The scale of the problem is unsustainable and the workforce is at breaking point.”  

"Worryingly more than half don’t feel valued at all by their employer or the Scottish Government, despite the public praise being lavished upon them. There is a widespread belief that the work they do is being paid lip service and just isn’t being valued in the way that it should be.”

 “Urgently addressing these issues must be a priority for the Cabinet Secretary for Health. A key element has to be the re-opening of the NHS pay award from 2018, which expressly allowed for talks to begin if the circumstances changed. It’s our hope that what thousands of NHS Scotland workers have told us in this survey should facilitate immediate talks on how we can ensure the NHS Scotland workforce are properly valued, resourced and supported in their day to day roles particularly for all that they have done during this pandemic.”