Bristol healthcare assistants win over £1m in re-banding victory

Healthcare assistants in Bristol celebrate a huge re-banding victory thanks to an 18-month UNISON campaign.

Main entrance to Southmead Hospital in Bristol. Blue sign gives the name of the hospital plus A&E details.

Over 2,000 healthcare assistants in Bristol hospitals have been re-banded from Band 2 to Band 3 and received up to £4,000 backpay after a UNISON campaign revealed they had been performing clinical duties and patient observations above their grade.

This is the latest victory in UNISON’s ‘pay fair for patient care’ campaign, which saw hospital workers in Manchester win significant back pay last year.

The union has now won significant backpay for members working in the two biggest hospitals in Bristol: North Bristol Trust and University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust.

Workers with over four years’ service received £4,000, those with two to four years’ service received £3,000 and those with less than two years’ service received £2,000.

The money arrived in members’ pay packets in January. For those at the top of Band 2 this will mean a pay rise of £1,859 going forward.

The campaign also included re-banding and a pay increase for apprentices and staff working bank shifts, reflecting UNISON’s ‘put NHS pay right’ campaign.

UNISON officer Louise Chinnery said: “UNISON is successfully winning the argument that healthcare assistants should be at Band 3. There is real momentum behind this campaign.

“For too long healthcare assistants have been working above and beyond to pick up the slack of staff shortages and clinical duties gradually trickling down to HCAs.

“UNISON activists in Bristol have been tenacious and resilient in managing to get big amounts of money directly into workers’ pockets, which is a huge victory.”

Michelle, a healthcare assistant at North Bristol Trust who has been re-banded due to the campaign, said: “I can’t believe how much money I received and the fact I’m now at the top of the band. The money was really needed straight after Christmas and with the price of everything becoming so expensive”

However, the battle for back pay wasn’t straightforward, according to UNISON Concorde Health branch secretary Shawn Fleming: “The staff shortages on wards are horrific, and people are burned out. But UNISON members were unhappy and knew that they were being exploited and had been for a number of years.

“Ultimately, we held management accountable and they had no other option but to settle with us.”

Mr Fleming continued: “Management also came to recognise that this was a viable retention issue for them. It affected a large group of staff hospitals are struggling to recruit because the pay isn’t great. You can’t pay people a pittance if you need them.”

UNISON south west regional organiser Christina Cook said: “Throughout the campaign, we had to keep momentum up. We had the backing of the membership through WhatsApp groups and walking around the hospital. The beauty of North Bristol Trust is that it’s all in one building, so everybody knows everybody.”

Louise Chinnery added: “The pay fair for patient care campaign is about healthcare assistants working together to demand that they are recognised, rewarded and respected for the essential role they play in the NHS.”

If you want to run this campaign in your branch, here are the tools and resources to support you.