Put NHS Pay Right

A new report compiled on behalf of 14 unions representing more than a million health workers in England, makes clear rebuilding the NHS workforce will be impossible without the fair, sustained wage rises central to recruiting and hanging on to staff.

The unions also call for action from the government in the 2024/25 pay round to tackle the wage and staffing issues crucial to cutting the treatment backlog and giving patients the quality care they deserve.

The report Supporting UK’s Economic Growth: The Case for NHS Pay is being published today, coinciding with the day on which the NHS pay review body’s initial call for evidence closes. NHS staff are due a pay rise from 1 April, but the review body is already months behind schedule because the government began the process so late, say the unions.

UNISON, which is the biggest union in the NHS, has this week written to the health secretary setting out the case for sustained investment in the workforce.

UNISON has also notified the acting chair of the NHS pay review body (PRB) of its decision to do this rather than submitting evidence. This is because the union says the PRB process takes too long, and is neither sufficiently independent, nor fit for purpose.

Health workers are disappointed by the government’s decision to fall back once again on the lengthy review-body process to set pay, says UNISON. The very fact Victoria Atkins didn’t get the PRB ball rolling until December means staff already know they won’t be getting this year’s wage increase on time, adds the union.

But pay is of real concern. In a recent UNISON survey, over a third (38%) of health workers said they were unable to concentrate at work because they were worrying about their finances.

The cost-of-living crisis has hit working families hard, and health workers are no exception, says UNISON. In the same poll, more than two-thirds (68%) said their rent or mortgage has risen considerably over the past year. And more than half (53%) expect their housing costs to go up significantly in the coming 12 months.

As a result, over a third (35%) of NHS staff told UNISON they had to take on extra shifts to get by, adding to an increased risk of stress and burnout, the union warns.

More worryingly, says UNISON, increased housing costs have already prompted three in ten (31%) to start looking for better-paying jobs outside the NHS, raising fears that staffing shortages could yet worsen.

Vacancy rates remain stubbornly high across every part of the NHS in England, says UNISON. With trusts more than 110,000 staff short, the impact on workload, morale and patient care is huge, adds the union.

Chair of the NHS group of unions and UNISON acting head of health Helga Pile said: “There’s a clear link between rising waiting lists and the staffing emergency being felt in every part of the NHS in England.

“Investing in pay and improving working conditions are the ways to keep experienced employees in their jobs and attract new recruits. In turn that means patients are more likely to get the care they need and get it more quickly.

“But it also makes economic sense too. When health workers have more money in their pockets, they tend to spend it on their local high streets, supporting local businesses. And if the NHS had more staff, it would be able to treat a larger number of people. Falling sickness rates would enable the wider workforce to grow and economic benefits to flow across the country.”

Read the reports here

Joint Unions Case for NHS Pay 2024

Put NHS Pay Right