‘Ripped off’ Bedfordshire NHS staff vote on strike action

A large group of healthcare support staff in the Bedford Hospital canteen calling for fair banding

Healthcare support workers at Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust are voting on strike action after years of being “ripped off”, UNISON says today.

Hundreds of healthcare assistants, maternity care workers, theatre support assistants and other clinical support workers are calling to be properly paid for their work.

The staff are currently paid at band 2, but regularly undertake clinical duties — such as blood monitoring, ECGs, venepuncture and patient observations — that should be paid at band 3, says UNISON.

It means experienced staff are around £2,000 worse off a year, with some having been underpaid for more than a decade, according to the union.

Workers met trust chief executive David Carter in October 2023. He agreed to their request to be paid fairly and receive backpay compensating staff for the many years of being on the wrong band.

But after months without the trust making a formal offer — during which 98% of staff backed strikes in a consultation — workers were forced to move to a formal industrial action ballot, says the union.

The trust finally made an offer as the ballot opened this month, but UNISON says it falls a long way short of what workers are asking for and remains unclear which staff will be in line for rebanding.

Other trusts across the country have paid the difference in pay back to April 2018.

UNISON Eastern regional organiser Julie Trundell said: “The NHS couldn’t survive without the essential services healthcare support workers provide. They don’t deserve to be ripped off by bosses who want to run hospitals on the cheap.

“Bedfordshire HCAs, theatre support workers, maternity care assistants and other support staff have been underpaid and undervalued for years. They should get proper recognition for their hard work and skills.

“We hope the trust comes back with a meaningful offer that makes up for year after year of being taken for granted so strikes can be avoided.”