Hundreds of health workers across the South East are petitioning local MPs to support to back an early pay rise for staff in consideration of the extra strain put on the NHS due to Covid-19.
This follows a pay claim submitted to the government by UNISON – the UK’s largest trade union – to increase NHS salaries by at least £2000 each in time for Christmas. The next NHS pay rise was scheduled to occur in April but due to the strain on “exhausted” workers, to reflect their extra work during the pandemic. If accepted, this would also push starting salaries over £20,000 for the first time, and over £20,400 in Scotland per year.
The question has become increasingly pertinent as we are in the midst of a second wave even worse than the first. It has been suggested that if the raise is rejected, NHS staff could strike.
The first wave of the virus has been very hard on NHS workers throughout the country, with many leaving the profession due to exhaustion. It is hoped that the raise will induce many considering leaving to stay, whilst also making the NHS more attractive for much needed new recruits.
It is estimated that over 650 NHS workers have died of Covid-19 this year. A critical care nurse working at the hospital where Boris Johnson was treated for Covid-19 in April told Sky News: ‘I’m not a warrior, I’m not a soldier, I don’t come to work expecting to die.’
UNISON’s letter to the government also referenced the Prime Minister’s treatment in an NHS hospital for Covid-19, stating: ‘Health staff have heard how much your recent personal experiences taught you about the value of what they do. They are now looking for you to reflect that in their pay. So, Prime Minister, why wait?’
Steve Torrance, UNISON’s South East Regional Secretary said: ‘Health workers are exhausted from the first virus peak. They’re now dealing with the second wave and a backlog of cancelled treatments.’ It is as yet unclear how damaging the number of cancelled procedures and appointments will be for the NHS in the next few years, with thousands of excess deaths already recorded.
It is currently unclear what the government response is, but as the UK has now exceeded 50,000 deaths with only 6 weeks until Christmas, it is decreasingly likely that the raise will be implemented in that time.