NHS workers in the South West call on government to show its appreciation for them

Health staff across the South West – including nurses, paramedics, cleaners, domestics and porters – are taking part in two days of campaigning urging the government to give an early, significant pay rise of at least £2,000 to every worker in the NHS.

Staff in UNISON branches based in NHS hospitals, ambulance stations and clinics will be using social media and taking part in socially distanced events to press home the message that health workers deserve much more than applause for their efforts during the pandemic.

Health workers know the public backs an early NHS pay rise, but now want to see the government show its appreciation for staff by bringing forward the pay rise due in April.

UNISON’s pay claim – delivered to Downing Street last month – would see every NHS employee receive an increase of at least £2,000 by the end of the year.

This early wage increase – equivalent to around £1 an hour extra for all staff – could give ailing local economies a much-needed boost as workers spend the extra money in their pockets on the high street, says UNISON.

With the arrival of autumn, and the increasing rates of infection, UNISON believes now is the perfect time for the government to show the high regard in which ministers say they hold NHS staff.

UNISON South West regional secretary Joanne Kaye said:

“Infection rates are rising in care homes and out in the wider community, and hospital admissions are on the up.

“The pressure on staff is beginning to build again, as the NHS tries to open services shut earlier in the year and deal with the backlog of cancelled appointments and operations.

“That’s why now would be the perfect time for the Prime Minister and Chancellor to show they can do more than clap for NHS staff, and demonstrate their appreciation in a much more practical way.

“Boris Johnson’s pie in the sky plans for any time, any place, anywhere ‘moonshot’ testing would cost a mindboggling £100bn. An early pay rise for NHS staff would be a tiny fraction of that and would make a huge difference to individuals and the services they help provide.

“Investing in the NHS and its incredible staff is a must for the government. It would help the health service tackle the mounting staff shortages that were already causing huge problems even before the virus hit.

“An early pay rise would also be the country’s best way of saying a heartfelt thank you to every single member of the NHS team.”

Darren Tudor-Green, healthcare assistant  
Darren is a health care assistant at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, Darren usually works in urology but gave up his role and volunteered to look after Covid-19 patients. His husband also works for the NHS as a surgeon and contracted the virus.

Darren said: “Throughout the pandemic I have worked hard to provide care for patients. We’re willing to put our lives on hold and on the line to ensure they get the best possible care when they need it most.

“The team in which I work is full of people who, even before the pandemic, put their jobs above everything else and they deserve to be recognised for that.

“I hope the government can see that we really are the key workers that keep the country running.”

Howard Bailey, catering assistant
Howard works at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital. During the pandemic, he’s been serving both staff and patients while also assisting with food preparation and cleaning duties when the facilities have been busy.

Howard said: “It’s a pleasure working within the NHS. We’ve all been working incredibly hard throughout the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure the hospital runs as smoothly as it can for everyone.

“It would be great to see the government recognise our hard work with an early pay rise.”

Notes to editors:

  • According to UNISON/Savanta ComRes polling published in July, a majority of the public (69%) think all NHS staff should get an early pay rise. Two thirds (66%) of the public believe a wage increase for employees should be significant in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. An overwhelming majority (85%) believe pay should increase.
  • UNISON estimates that a £2,000 pay rise for all NHS staff would cost around £2.8bn in England (plus additional spending in the devolved administrations).
  • Agenda for Change staff in the NHS are currently covered by a three-year pay and reform deal, due to end on 31 March 2021.
  • The UNISON claim is for an increase of at least £2,000 to every point on the NHS salary scale. This would take minimum earnings up from around £18,000 to £20,005 and take the lowest rate in the NHS above the real living wage. The £2,000 would be worth 8% for a newly qualified band 5 worker (for example, a nurse, paramedic or IT manager) and would take their annual salary to £26,907.
  • UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.