Health workers in the South West urge local MPs to back early pay rise for exhausted staff and to protect the NHS

Thousands of health staff across the South West – including nurses, paramedics, cleaners, domestics and porters – are writing to the region’s 55 MPs asking them to back UNISON’s call for NHS staff to get an early pay rise in time for Christmas.

Staff employed in hospitals, clinics and ambulance stations across the South West are urging local politicians to put their case to the government for a significant pay rise of at least £2,000 for every worker across the NHS.

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The NHS pay rise is due next April, but health workers, already worn out from the early stages of the pandemic, say bringing the increase forward would help staff feel more valued as the second wave surges.

Bringing the planned wage rise forward a few months would also place the NHS in a better position to face the future, say South West health workers.

The pandemic has affected staff profoundly and many may choose to leave the NHS, such are the levels of exhaustion says UNISON. Raising pay this year could persuade staff to change their minds and make the NHS more attractive to thousands of much-needed recruits, adds the union.

With the arrival of winter, the second virus wave 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:

“Health workers across the region are exhausted from the first virus peak both emotionally and physically. They’re now facing a bleak few months with the second wave, a backlog of cancelled treatments on top of the annual winter pressures.

“We can rely on them, as always, to protect and care for us all. But staff are fearful and anxious because they know what lies ahead.

“Now is the time for a significant pay rise from the government. Workers doing the job would then feel valued, and an increase could help fill the thousands of vacancies in our health service.”

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.”