Unsocial hours payments don’t stand in the way of a seven-day NHS, says UNISON

UNISON has welcomed the finding of a report that says the costs of unsocial hours payments to NHS staff working at night and at weekends will not prevent the introduction of a seven-day NHS.

Commenting on the report from the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) and the Office of Manpower Economics on the delivery of a seven-day NHS, UNISON regional head of health Tracey Lambert said:

“Health workers will be relieved to learn that the report doesn’t see unsocial-hours payments as a barrier to delivering seven-day services – as Jeremy Hunt and the NHS employers have claimed in the past.

“The real barrier to a truly seven-day NHS is a lack of staff to ensure safe services every day of the week.  Sadly, the reality is that the government would rather make up for the chronic underfunding of the NHS by cutting staff pay.

“This report highlights the possible impact on patients of any reduction in unsocial-hours payments. If NHS workers were not paid more for working at night, and over weekends and public holidays, many would vote with their feet, and either leave the health service altogether or seek more lucrative agency work.

“The PRB report shows the effect that cuts to unsocial-hours payments would have on staff morale, and make recruitment and retention of key NHS staff more difficult.

“The real barriers to a safe seven-day NHS are underfunding, understaffing and lack of employee involvement.”

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.