The lack of a decent pay rise for NHS staff will lead to a staff exodus, resulting in a waiting list crisis within five years because of a shortage of health professionals to carry out vital operations and procedures.

This warning came today (Sunday 7 March) from Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, as controversy continues to swirl over the government’s recommendation of a one per cent pay rise to the independent NHS Pay Review Body.

Unite, with 100,000 members in the health service, said the anger felt by NHS staff at the ‘insulting’ government proposal would exacerbate the already existing serious ‘recruitment and retention’ crisis in the NHS.

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “The NHS will be a pale shadow of the great Covid-fighting health service we know and love in five years’ time, if the insulting one per cent pay recommendation is not dramatically revised upwards by ministers. 

“NHS staff are exhausted after a year of tireless caring for patients during the pandemic - and many are now prepared to leave the health service after a decade of pay austerity which has seen pay packets for many shrink by 19 per cent in real terms. 

“The one per cent recommendation could be the last straw for many dedicated staff. 

“The NHS already has an estimated 100,000 vacancies, including 40,000 nursing posts - and a massive backlog of non-Covid procedures, such as cancer treatments. 

“The NHS’ ‘recruitment and retention’ crisis is very real - and a decent pay rise will go some way in addressing this issue. 

“The Tories’ tight-fisted policy on NHS pay since 2010 will have a poisonous sting in the tail in the years to come and lead to an exodus of experienced staff that the NHS can ill-afford to lose. 

“The British public needs to speak up now for the NHS and additional investment in services and funding for a significant pay rise.  

“Otherwise, in five years’ time, there may not be the staff to see that your granny’s hip replacement is done on time as waiting lists spiral out of control.” 

Unite is liaising with other health unions as to the next steps in the pay justice campaign, including the possibility of an industrial action ballot. The PRB is due to report in May.


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.