Responding to the government’s announcement today (30 January) that it intends to invest an additional £1 billion in the NHS to increase the number of hospital beds and ambulances, Unite warned that it is again failing to address ‘the elephant in the room of low pay, huge vacancies and experienced staff quitting the service.
Key problem ignored
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Any investment in the NHS is welcome. But either through design or incompetence, the government has once again failed to address the ‘elephant in the room’ that the NHS is failing to operate properly due to severe staff shortages caused by over a decade of underpaying its workers.
“The NHS workers, including Unite members, who are currently taking strike action as a last resort to protect the NHS for the long-term, will be confused and angry that the government can seemingly magic a fresh £1 billion but can’t even begin negotiations about delivering a fair pay increase.
“Instead of throwing out rehashed plans, the prime minister needs to get around the negotiating table and solve the current NHS dispute. Rishi Sunak's abdication of leadership is causing real harm.”
Lack of staff
Unite national officer for health, Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe, said: “The government’s announcement misses a key factor: Investment in hospital beds and ambulances is only worthwhile if there are staff to operate them. They are still not listening to what the ambulance sector are asking for.
“It takes four years to train a paramedic and three years to train a nurse. The government’s focus should be on persuading staff not to leave the NHS, otherwise the new investment will be wasted as there will be no one to utilise it.”
Unite members employed in the ambulance service in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have already taken several days of strike action and have announced further dates across February and March. The next strikes are scheduled for Monday 6 February.