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Unions call for early pay rise for nurses

Nurses in hospital

Unions have called on the Government to build on public support for the NHS by giving healthcare workers including nurses across the UK an early pay rise.

The 14 unions – including the Royal College of Nursing, Unison, the Royal College of Midwives and Unite – have written to the chancellor and the Prime Minister calling for pay talks to start soon so all NHS staff get a wage increase before the end of the year.

In the letter, they urged the Government to turn applause for key workers into ‘something more substantial’ as NHS staff near the end of a three-year pay deal. This comes after the UK gave thanks to the NHS on its 72nd birthday at the weekend.

The unions argued a ‘fair wage increase would help staff feel valued after the huge pressures and challenges faced in recent months’ and boost the economy, as health workers would spend more money.

Better pay would also help the NHS hold onto more experienced workers amid chronic fears over retention and hire more workers to fill long-standing vacancies, they said.

However, they stressed that they were not seeking extra payment ‘as a Covid bonus’ but to make up for pay freezes and wage caps of previous years.

Unison head of health Sara Gorton, who also chairs the NHS group of unions, said: ‘The applause and kind words shown during the difficult days of the pandemic were a huge source of comfort to NHS staff. But now the Government should show its appreciation in a different way.’

The health unions’ group acting secretary Hannah Reed from the Royal College of Nursing said that warm words and praise ‘is beginning to feel hollow’ for many when not backed by proper recognition and pay.

She continued: ‘Across the NHS, nursing and healthcare staff are still working harder than ever. These people are the country’s greatest asset. When we celebrate that, politicians must think about how staff can be fairly paid and valued.’

Last week, the Royal College of Midwives spoke out against overseas healthcare workers still paying the NHS surcharge despite promises they would be excused from the fee and while working during a pandemic.