Staffing numbers not unsocial hours payments are the real barrier to a seven-day NHS

A recent report has concluded that the cost of unsocial hours allowances is not a barrier to the introduction of a seven-day NHS, despite claims to the contrary by Jeremy Hunt (Secretary of State for Health) and the NHS Employers. The report from the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) and the Office of Manpower Economics on the delivery of a seven-day NHS highlighted the importance of unsocial hours payments in recruiting and retaining staff.

UNISON has always argued that the real barrier to the introduction of a seven-day NHS is the lack of sufficient staff to ensure safe services every day of the week. Any reduction in unsocial hours allowances is likely to result in staff leaving the NHS or seeking more lucrative agency work. The government’s four year 1% cap on pay rises may result in many NHS workers leaving the service altogether as staff morale continues to fall.

The main points made by the PRB report include:

  • The need for staff to be involved in the design and delivery of seven-day services alongside managers and patient groups;
  • Unsocial-hours payments must be looked at as part of a wider discussion on staff pay;
  • Most NHS staff already work across seven days;
  • There are significant gaps in the government’s data and information to support the delivery of seven-day NHS services.

You can read the report here and our press release here.