Health unions representing more than 1.3m workers across the UK have written to the prime minister today (Monday 18 January) urging him to speed up the pay process so NHS staff receive a promised wage rise as soon as possible.    

 The letter to Boris Johnson – signed by the heads of UNISON, Royal College of Nursing and Royal College of Midwives – says ‘hospitals are stretched to the limit’, with many ‘demoralised and traumatised’ staff facing burnout, such is the pressure they’re under.  

The letter coincides with the results of a poll published by the UK’s 14 health unions showing a majority of the public (53 per cent) think the government should bring forward a wage increase for all NHS staff. 

The results of the poll of more than 2,000 people – commissioned from Savanta ComRes – also highlights how the majority of people (86 per cent) back some level of pay rise, with 40 per cent supporting a significant increase.

The unions’ plea to the prime minister urges him to personally intervene to speed up the pay review process given the scale of the challenge facing the NHS.  

 The letter reminds Boris Johnson that it’s within his power to speed up this process and grant a wage increase now.   

It adds: “The majority of the public want this to happen, and it makes economic sense as health workers would have more money in their pockets to spend locally. This would provide a much-needed boost for businesses when the lockdown begins to ease.” 

The letter outlines how health workers are having to provide cover for multiple colleagues who are off sick with Covid or simply burned out by the experience of intensive care units reaching full capacity and of patients dying.      

It comes as the 14 health unions have responded to the NHS pay review body’s call for evidence, setting out the need for an early and significant pay rise for staff. 

Their submission highlights how a pay rise is vital if the NHS is to be 'fighting fit' to deal with the challenges of the pandemic and its aftermath. 

The document outlines the economic benefit of giving a substantial pay rise to all staff including healthcare assistants, nurses, hospital porters, physiotherapists, midwives, dieticians, paramedics, occupational therapists and cleaners.  

The report outlines independent data from think tank London Economics which shows a pay rise is both affordable for the Treasury and would bring about an economic boost to hospitality, retail and other struggling sectors in communities across the UK.  

UNISON head of health Sara Gorton, who also chairs the NHS group of unions, said: “It’s in the prime minister’s gift to speed up the pay review process.     

“A wage rise won’t stop the virus. But it will show exhausted staff the government cares as much about them as it does about their patients.”   

Chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing Donna Kinnair said: “NHS staff are worse off now than ten years ago. When tens of thousands of nurse jobs are vacant, the government cannot afford to let more leave over low pay. A meaningful rise will bring in new nurses and keep experienced ones in post."   

Executive director for external relations at the Royal College of Midwives Jon Skewes, who is also treasurer for the NHS group of unions, said: “Over a million people work in the NHS. Putting extra money in their pockets would not just acknowledge and recognise their hard work, it would also put cash into struggling local economies and help families at a time when many will be facing mounting financial difficulties.” 

ENDS   

Notes to editors:    

- The poll was carried out by Savanta ComRes who surveyed 2,302 UK adults between 8 and 10 January 2020. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all UK adults. Savanta ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full tables at www.comresglobal.com   

- The Savanta ComRes data found that four in five UK adults support a pay rise in general for NHS staff (83%). More than two thirds (68%) supported the government increasing public spending in order to fund an increase, with two in five (40%) strongly supporting this. This compared with a tenth overall who opposed this proposal, with 4% strongly opposing it. 

- Health workers are currently in the final year of a three-year deal. They’re due a pay rise in April but unions want the government to show its appreciation for NHS employees by bringing it forward. The government failed to commit to this last summer when wage increases for 900,000 workers elsewhere in the public sector were announced. A rise has now been promised by the chancellor but not until after the formal NHS pay review body reports back in May. This is likely to mean that the NHS are not likely to get a pay rise until July at the earliest, say the unions. Health secretary Matt Hancock has also said the increase must be determined by ‘affordability’ and Rishi Sunak has warned of restraint in future public sector pay awards. 

- The 14 NHS unions are: British Association of Occupational Therapists, British Dietetic Association, British Orthoptic Society, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, College of Podiatry, Federation of Clinical Scientists, GMB, Managers in Partnership, Prison Officers Association, Royal College of Midwives, Royal College of Nursing, Society of Radiographers, UNISON and Unite.  

- The link to the London Economics research is here

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.

Please note the numbers above are for journalists’ enquiries only.

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