New health and social care secretary Sajid Javid should give the NHS a generous birthday present to celebrate its 73rd birthday today (Monday 5 July), as the first step in rejuvenating the health service and rewarding staff for all their hard work during the pandemic, Unite the union said.

Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, said that Javid needs to unwrap ‘a golden hello’ by pledging the resources to substantially boost NHS pay and tackle the ‘frightening’ backlog of nearly five million patients in England waiting for procedures and operations, such as cancer treatments and hip replacements.

Unite said that the accelerating pace of the expensive, and often inefficient, privatisation of health services to profit-hungry healthcare companies needed to be reversed by Javid.

The union said that for Javid the challenge was whether he could shed his past as a ministerial fiscal ‘hawk’ and use the experience gained as an ex-chancellor to ensure that the chief secretary to the treasury Stephen Barclay loosens the public sector purse strings.

Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “Today, on its 73rd birthday, the NHS is at a post-pandemic crossroads and is in urgent need of a massive investment programme over the next decade to staunch the ‘recruitment and retention’ crisis and tackle the backlog of millions of non-Covid operations and procedures. 

“The NHS has an estimated 100,000 vacancies, including 40,000 nursing posts – and one way to tackle this ever-growing problem is to substantially boost the pay of NHS staff. If the new health and social care secretary Sajid Javid is unable to obtain a lot more cash from the chief secretary to the treasury Stephen Barclay for the health service, the NHS will be a pale shadow of the great Covid-fighting health service we know and love in five years’ time.

“NHS staff are exhausted after 16 months of tireless caring for patients during the pandemic - and many, such as Jenny McGee, the nurse who cared for Boris Johnson, have left the health service after a decade of pay austerity which has seen pay packets for many shrink by 19 per cent in real terms. Unless the insulting one per cent recommendation from the government is greatly increased, this could be the last straw for many dedicated staff.

“The reform of social care into a well-funded and integrated service has been ‘the elephant in the room’ for successive governments – on the day he became prime minister Boris Johnson pledged he had a plan ‘to fix’ social care. However, like a lot of his promises, it has, so far, failed to materialise in any tangible form.

“The NHS was founded in 1948 to be a service free at the point of delivery for all those in need – today the government needs to strongly reaffirm those principles with hard cash and a coherent vision for the future.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

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.

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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.