The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and other unions representing health service employees in the UK have called on the NHS Pay Review Body to recommend an above-inflation pay rise.
In the submission the unions warned that the 1% public sector pay cap is no longer sustainable as Trusts already struggle to recruit and retain staff and the NHS faces a workforce crisis. The submission is calling for a pay increase that begins to bring pay back to historic levels, as well as a return to UK-wide pay scales, with staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland receiving the same pay rates as staff in Scotland.
The unions said that because the pay of healthcare workers has failed to keep pace with inflation, within five years the lowest paid employees will be earning less than the minimum wage. They stated that the government will need to provide £280million to ensure all NHS workers are earning the national living wage.
Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN said that nursing staff are struggling to pay the bills, forced to work extra shifts to make ends meet and some are even relying on foodbanks. 'They have put up with a declining standard of living for six years because of their commitment to caring for their patients, but they can only be stretched so far and we are now in the grips of a recruitment and retention crisis,' she said.
She added that this recommendation is about 'getting a grip on workforce planning in the NHS and helping trusts to recruit and retain the staff they need to provide safe patient care.'
In Unite's annual membership survey earlier this year, over 70% of nurses said they would not recommend their occupation as a career in the NHS, with 58% considering leaving their posts for a job outside the NHS.
Some 86% of health visitors said they had experienced work related stress in the past year and 82% reported morale and motivation being worse or a lot worse.
Unite national officer for health Sarah Carpenter, said that now is the time for Chancellor Philip Hammond to honour his pledge to reset economic policy.
'It is clear the 1% pay cap for NHS staff is completely unrealistic and unsustainable after years of below inflation pay rises and pay freezes. The scale of the crisis can’t be underestimated – vacancies for certain grades of pathology staff are running at up to 70%, with huge agency costs as a result, and morale for the overworked ambulance staff and health visitors is rock bottom because of the shabby way that ministers have treated them when it comes to pay since 2010,' she said.
Chair of the NHS trade unions Christina McAnea expressed concerns that capping pay would deter people from considering careers in the NHS.