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Monday, 19 June 2017

Unions urge Government to end pay cap for health workers amid staff shortages concerns

Written by Alan Jones

Unions representing nurses and other health workers are urging the Prime Minister to remove the 1% cap on their pay, warning it was affecting the recruitment of enough staff to provide safe patient care.

A letter to the Prime Minister signed by officials from 15 unions, including the Royal College of Nursing, Unison, British Medical Association, Unite and the Royal College of Midwives, calls for a "change of direction" in Wednesday's Queen's Speech.

NHS pay has been capped at 1% or less since 2010, leaving nurses at least £3,000 worse off in real terms, unions say.

A recent poll of RCN members showed massive support for industrial action, leading to warnings of a formal strike ballot later this year unless the cap is removed.

The letter says: "By your own admission, austerity, and a lack of investment in the public sector was a significant factor in the general election result. Many have said that the pay freeze in the public sector was in part to blame for your failure to secure a parliamentary majority, alongside senior health leaders who agree that people who work in our NHS should be fairly rewarded for the work they do.

"Organisations that represent patients and our NHS workforce are calling for the Queen's Speech to mark a clear change in direction.

"People who are working in the NHS are delivering care to the best of their ability but we are very worried that care is becoming unsafe. Our services are struggling to make do without the staff they need."

The pay cap was having a "profound and detrimental" effect on standards of care at a time when the NHS was short of staff, the Prime Minister was told.

Karen Middleton, chief executive of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, said: "There are staffing shortages across the NHS and unless the cap on pay is lifted, these pressures will be exacerbated as staff leave for other sectors and even other professions."

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: "This week there's a new Parliament and with it a fresh opportunity for the Government to rethink its harsh approach to public sector pay.

"Wage freezes and below-inflation pay increases have hit health employees hard, and left their employers struggling to recruit new workers and hold on to experienced staff.

"The time has come to undo the damage and lift the pay cap for the good of patients, services and the entire NHS team."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Peter Byrne / PA Wire.