NHS staff protest outside Colchester Hospital on day they should have received a pay rise

A group of health workers outside Colchester Hospital with signs saying Put NHS Pay Right

NHS staff from across the East of England are protesting outside Colchester Hospital today on the day that NHS staff should have received a pay rise.

Government delays mean that nurses, porters, healthcare assistants and other NHS employees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will not get a wage increase until May at the earliest.

In a joint submission, UNISON and other health unions wrote to the NHS pay review body (PRB) outlining how an above-inflation pay rise is needed urgently to stop an exodus of staff.

They say this should be at the heart of a comprehensive package to persuade workers that it is worth staying in their NHS roles. The consequences of staff quitting would be disastrous for the health service and would undermine patient care, say the unions.

Research by the union shows that major names on the high street including Amazon and Aldi are promoting wages which currently exceed the lowest hourly rates in the NHS.

Without a significant wage boost, UNISON says thousands of low-paid staff including 999 call handlers, healthcare assistants, medical secretaries and cleaners could be lost to the private sector.

Nearly half (48%) of health workers are already seriously thinking of quitting the NHS in the next year with pay a significant factor, according to a UNISON survey published this week.

Health workers protesting outside Colchester Hospital

Soaring living costs are a major worry for staff, and the union says this year’s wage increase must be above the rate of inflation (currently 6.2% under the consumer price index) to shield them from the cost-of-living crisis.

However, the government has suggested a 2-3% pay rise in evidence to the PRB, a figure the unions say is a real-terms salary cut.

After the demonstration, the health workers will meet to discuss the next steps in their pay campaign.

UNISON Eastern head of health Sasha Savage said: “Staff should have been looking forward to seeing more money in their wage packets today but government dawdling has delayed their pay rise.

“They mustn’t be left waiting in the dark like last year – especially with the cost of living rising by the minute. Any further delay will leave many have to make the choice between feeding their families and quitting for better pay elsewhere.

“The government must wake up to the fact that nothing less than an above-inflation rise will do.”