A majority of the public believe an above-inflation pay rise for NHS staff would be fair and workers would be justified in taking strike action if this year’s wage increase fails to match the rising cost of living, according to a new Savanta ComRes poll.
The survey of more than 2,000 people on behalf of 13 of the UK’s health unions found that 55% back a pay rise of at least 9%, with 69% supporting an increase of over 5%. A clear majority of those polled, 58%, say NHS staff would be have grounds to strike if the government’s pay award is below inflation.
Commenting on the poll, MiP chief executive Jon Restell said: “NHS staff have beeen struggling for months waiting for the government to show their hand on pay. They’ve had to contend with massive restructuring throughout the system, chronic workforce shortages at all levels and the biggest demand for care in the history of the health service – all while the challenges of Covid are still being felt
“Fair pay isn’t just some moral pursuit,” he continued. “It’s essential to get to grips with the current staffing crisis. It not only incentives a beleaguered workforce to stay within the health service, it also allows the NHS to recruit the additional staff needed to fill the over 100,000 vacancies it’s carrying.
“The public clearly recognises the importance of fair pay if the NHS is to provide the high standards of care expected of it. Ministers would do well to do the same.”
The survey also found that a large minority of the public agree that fair wages are crucial in tackling the NHS staffing crisis, which is a major factor in growing waiting lists, ambulance delays and declining standards of patient care.
More than 80% agree that resolving staffing problems should be the top NHS priority for the government and that waiting lists will grow and delays lengthen without government action to tackle staff shortages. 85% said that decent pay is essential to health workers staying in the NHS and improvements in patient care.
Sara Gorton, chair of the NHS group of unions and head of health at UNISON said the public clearly support an above inflation pay rise for NHS staff and warned that ministers needed to “act now rather than stumble into a dispute no one wants to see”.
“The prime-ministerial merry-go-round and government delays shouldn’t stop a wage rise for staff,” she continued. “Health workers struggling to pay bills have been waiting months for the increase they should have received back in the spring.
“The government must find the money needed or risk worsening the current staffing crisis and lengthening test and treatment waits for patients,” she added.