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Monday 24 January 2022

Unions demand "game-changing" pay rise to halt staff exodus

By MiP

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NHS trade unions, including MiP, have called for an “inflation-busting pay rise” to tackle growing staff shortages in the NHS and criticised the government for failing to take the independent pay review process seriously.

In a joint submission to the NHS Pay Review Body, published on 24 January, the unions warned that “the mounting NHS staffing crisis and long waiting times will become permanent unless the government brings in a game-changing retention package, with an inflation-busting pay rise at its heart.” 

They also accused the government of treating the independent pay review process “with contempt” after ministers failed to submit their own evidence to the review body by the 24 January deadline, which could lead to pay awards due in April being delayed. 

The unions called on ministers to act urgently with a “significant” pay rise that “both cushions health workers from soaring living costs and enables the NHS to hold on to, and attract, the staff so essential for its post-Covid recovery”. 

MiP chief executive Jon Restell said: “An inflation-busting pay rise is critical for holding onto and attracting staff, which in turn is critical for the quality of patient care and for tackling the post-pandemic backlog. 

“It’s also important if we are to improve MiP members' well-being and workload,” he added. “Staff shortages are among the key reasons both are worsening for managers.”    

With 93,000 vacancies across England, and shortages in every specialism, the NHS staffing position is already fragile, but many workers “have simply had enough”, the unions warn, and are actively seeking jobs outside the NHS.       

As well as an inflation-proofed pay rise, the union’s emergency retention package includes: 

  • raising the earnings of the lowest paid workers above the ‘real living wage’ set by the Living Wage Foundation
  • fair rewards for extra shifts worked 
  • limits on excessive working hours to prevent burnout    

UNISON head of health and chair of the joint health unions, Sara Gorton, warned that ministers needed to act quickly to hold on to experienced staff, protect NHS services and cut waiting times. “Last year government dithering caused health workers to wait months for a measly pay rise. Ministers mustn’t make the same mistake again,” she said.  

She also suggested that if direct talks between government and unions could deliver a pay award faster than the review body process, the unions would be willing to “get around the negotiating table instantly.”

  • In 2022, the NHS pay review body report will cover NHS staff on Agenda for Change in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Health unions in Scotland will hold separate talks on NHS pay with the Scottish Government.      

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