Healthcare staff at  Derriford Hospital vote to strike after years of being underpaid

A huge majority (98%) of staff voted to strike in a ballot that closed earlier this week

Hundreds of workers including healthcare assistants, maternity care assistants, imaging care assistants and clinical support workers at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth have voted overwhelmingly for strike action over pay, says UNISON today (Thursday).

A huge majority (98%) of staff voted to strike in a ballot that closed earlier this week. Industrial action is now imminent unless the trust comes back to the negotiating table to make an improved offer to all staff within scope, says the union.

The healthcare workers, who provide vital support to nurses and other clinical staff, are demanding fair pay that reflects the important role they play in patient care. Despite their responsibilities increasing this has not been recognised by the employer nor paid properly, adds UNISON.

According to NHS guidance, healthcare assistants on Agenda for Change salary band 2 should only be providing personal care, such as bathing and feeding patients.

However, the support staff are routinely undertaking clinical tasks, says UNISON. These include taking and monitoring blood, performing electrocardiogram tests, and inserting cannulas.

The NHS guidance says staff performing these more complex duties should be on salary band 3, which is almost £2,000 a year more. With the loyal service of so many staff in Derriford, the Trust should be paying many staff at the top of band 3.

UNISON is calling for the health workers to be moved to the correct grade and to receive back pay for their previous work, which is based on how long they’ve worked at the hospital.

UNISON says others NHS trusts around the UK have already moved healthcare assistants up to the correct salary band and agreed deals on back pay. Somerset NHS Foundation Trust recently regraded its health support staff, awarding back pay to March 2017 in some cases.

But University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust has refused to draw up a similar agreement, despite a collective grievance signed by hundreds of staff.

Instead, the trust has offered just 6 months of back pay. This would mean these employees would receive thousands of pounds less than those in other South West trusts.

UNISON South West regional secretary Kerry Baigent said: “It’s time University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust followed the lead of other trusts in the South West and paid its healthcare assistants fairly.

“Staff are not prepared to have their hard work undervalued. The result of this ballot shows that unless the trust is prepared to come back to the negotiating table, strike action is inevitable.

“Managers should do the right thing now and avoid risking needless disruption for patients.”