NHS pay is an insult to health workers and the patients they care for
When I think about the pay offer for NHS staff this year the word that springs to mind is “disbelief”. Disbelief that the government thinks it appropriate to ignore the recommendation of the independent Pay Review Body (PRB), trusted to determine pay in the NHS for almost 30 years. Disbelief that they think it’s acceptable not even to honour the paltry 1% across-the-board increase previously promised, while accepting an 11% rise for themselves, saying their hands were tied by an independent process. And disbelief that the work being undertaken by dedicated health workers is being so under-valued, with surely longer-term implications for the NHS being able to hold on to its vitally needed and highly skilled staff.
Health workers have endured years of their pay increases being outstripped by the retail price index, with most experiencing at least a 10% cut in real-terms pay since 2010 and public sector pay falling significantly behind that elsewhere. Heaped on top of cut backs, weakened terms and conditions and relentless downgrading and reorganisations, NHS staff are getting close to breaking point, despite their huge commitment to the people they care for. The link between high quality care and good quality employment is irrefutable and abuse of the latter means putting the former at risk.
This worries me, not only as the incoming head of the CSP’s trade union function, but as a health service user and member of my local community. I want to feel confident that the physio looking at my knee is able to give that their full attention, rather than constantly worrying about how they are going to pay their child’s nursery fees. And I want the nurse caring for my grandmother to be able to be happy in his work, not wondering how he’ll pay the mortgage when his short-term contract comes to an end.
CSP members will be joining other unions in the campaign for fair pay because this year’s pay award is an insult. It’s an insult to our members who accepted pay restraint during some very tough times on the understanding that their loyalty would be recognised as the economy recovered. It’s an insult to the independent PRB process, which has stood the NHS in good stead and done much to foster harmonious industrial relations for nearly a third of a century. And it’s an insult to the millions of patients each year who look to the NHS to care for them at their most vulnerable. It’s time to say enough is enough. And that’s why we’ll be joining the Britain Needs A Pay Rise march on 18 October.