‘Ripped off’ Essex healthcare support staff deserve fair pay

Healthcare support staff are handing in more than 400 open letters to the Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust (MSEFT) board today asking for fair pay for the clinical duties they undertake, says UNISON.

A delegation of healthcare assistants, maternity support workers, theatre assistants and other clinical support staff are to present the letters at the in-person board meeting at Basildon Hospital calling on the chief executive to address historic underpayments related to incorrect banding.

The public board meeting was initially going to be held in Southend Hospital’s education centre, but the trust decided to move it to the tower block in Basildon after staff announced plans for a protest, says UNISON.

The staff, employed at Broomfield, Southend, Basildon and other MSEFT sites, were until recently paid at band two.

Band two staff should only undertake personal care, such as bathing and feeding patients. But the MSEFT staff have been routinely doing clinical duties — including taking bloods, patient observations and carrying out electrocardiograms (ECGs) — that should be paid at band three, which is up to £2,000 a year more, for many years.

In July 2023, the trust unilaterally uplifted staff to the bottom point of band three and made compensatory back payments to April 2022. Staff say they are owed thousands more for years working above their grades and the level of backpay should go beyond that date.

UNISON says it first raised the issue with MSEFT’s forerunners in 2020, while elsewhere in the country the union has won backpay going back to 2018.

But so far chief executive Matthew Hopkins has refused to reconsider the level of pay or even meet UNISON healthcare support workers to discuss the issue, says the union.

UNISON Eastern regional organiser Sam Older said: “These workers are a vital part of the NHS but they’ve been ripped off for years, with the trust using them to provide care on the cheap.

“Even when bosses did the right thing by up rebanding staff, they still undervalued and underpaid their workers.

“Matthew Hopkins and the board may want to hide from healthcare support workers, but staff won’t be shrugged off. The trust must do the right thing and pay staff what they deserve.”