Prime minister urged to speed up NHS pay rise as public backs the move

Health unions representing more than 1.3m workers across the UK have written to the prime minister today urging him to speed up the pay process so NHS staff receive a promised wage rise as soon as possible.    

The letter to Boris Johnson – signed by the heads of UNISON, Royal College of Nursing and Royal College of Midwives – says ‘hospitals are stretched to the limit’, with many ‘demoralised and traumatised’ staff facing burnout, such is the pressure they’re under.  

The letter coincides with the results of a poll published by the UK’s 14 health unions showing a majority of the public (53 per cent) think the government should bring forward a wage increase for all NHS staff. 

The results of the poll of more than 2,000 people – commissioned from Savanta ComRes – also highlights how the majority of people (86 per cent) back some level of pay rise, with 40 per cent supporting a significant increase.

The unions’ plea to the prime minister urges him to personally intervene to speed up the pay review process given the scale of the challenge facing the NHS.  

The letter reminds Boris Johnson that it’s within his power to speed up this process and grant a wage increase now.   

It adds: “The majority of the public want this to happen, and it makes economic sense as health workers would have more money in their pockets to spend locally. This would provide a much-needed boost for businesses when the lockdown begins to ease.” 

The letter outlines how health workers are having to provide cover for multiple colleagues who are off sick with COVID or simply burned out by the experience of intensive care units reaching full capacity and of patients dying.      

It comes as the 14 health unions have responded to the NHS pay review body’s call for evidence, setting out the need for an early and significant pay rise for staff. 

Their submission highlights how a pay rise is vital if the NHS is to be 'fighting fit' to deal with the challenges of the pandemic and its aftermath. 

The document outlines the economic benefit of giving a substantial pay rise to all staff including healthcare assistants, nurses, hospital porters, physiotherapists, midwives, dieticians, paramedics, occupational therapists and cleaners.  

The report outlines independent data from think tank London Economics which shows a pay rise is both affordable for the Treasury and would bring about an economic boost to hospitality, retail and other struggling sectors in communities across the UK.  

UNISON head of health Sara Gorton, who also chairs the NHS group of unions, said: “It’s in the prime minister’s gift to speed up the pay review process.     

“A wage rise won’t stop the virus. But it will show exhausted staff the government cares as much about them as it does about their patients.”   

Chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing Donna Kinnair said: “NHS staff are worse off now than ten years ago. When tens of thousands of nurse jobs are vacant, the government cannot afford to let more leave over low pay. A meaningful rise will bring in new nurses and keep experienced ones in post."   

Executive director for external relations at the Royal College of Midwives Jon Skewes, who is also treasurer for the NHS group of unions, said: “Over a million people work in the NHS. Putting extra money in their pockets would not just acknowledge and recognise their hard work, it would also put cash into struggling local economies and help families at a time when many will be facing mounting financial difficulties.”