Government must grant NHS staff a wage rise by Christmas, say health unions

on 09 November 2020 Covid-19 NHS Staff Pay Government

Health unions representing more than 1.3m workers across the UK have written to the Prime Minister calling for a pay rise for all NHS staff before Christmas.  

The letter to Boris Johnson from all 14 health unions warns the second virus wave is already placing hospitals under immense strain.  

It says staff are “stressed, burned out and fearful” and that asking them to carry on regardless is “increasingly unrealistic”.  

The letter adds: “Once more NHS staff will be relied upon to protect and care for us all. But health workers are exhausted, with many still recovering from the first virus peak.”  

NHS workers are not due a pay rise until April 2021, but the health unions say an early increase would help employees “feel valued, by the entire country, and the government too.”  

They state in the letter that raising pay this year could persuade staff looking to leave the NHS to change their minds. An early wage boost could also “prove attractive to thousands of much-needed potential NHS recruits”.  

The letter continues: “Bringing forward the wage rise in time for Christmas would also place the NHS in a better position to face the future.”  

The unions remind the Prime Minister in the letter that staff do their jobs because “they’re passionate about making people well again, and because they want to make a difference”.  

However, they point out that giving them a wage increase is “morally…the right decision to take”, adding: “It’s time to do more than praise their courage and dedication”.

RCM executive director of external relations Jon Skewes, who is also treasurer for the NHS group of unions, said: “Midwives, maternity support workers and all our NHS staff do an incredible job day in, day out, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.  

“And never has that been more apparent, more needed, or more valued than now. There was a compelling case for an early and significant pay rise for NHS staff before the pandemic, and their dedication, commitment and professionalism make that a cast-iron one now.  

“I call on the Prime Minister to show that he meant his fine words about the work of our NHS staff during the first wave of the pandemic and give them the pay award they rightly deserve.”  

UNISON head of health Sara Gorton, who also chairs the NHS group of 14 unions, said: “The NHS can't run without its staff. They all deserve better from porters to nurses.   

“Their dedication during the pandemic has been humbling. But no one is superhuman and many are feeling the strain. Boris Johnson must show he has a heart with a pay rise before Christmas.   

“It will boost exhausted staff going into the second wave and help the NHS attract much-needed new recruits."  

Hannah Reed from the RCN, who is also acting secretary to the health unions’ group, said: “NHS staff have been underpaid for years and there has never been a more critical time for the government to address this. 

“Paying staff fairly will show they're valued and begin to turn the corner on the record nursing and wider vacancy levels.

"The NHS is facing an extremely challenging few months due to the combination of Covid-19 and winter pressures. Without urgent action on pay, vacancies across the NHS will continue to increase.”  

Media contacts:  

UNISON: Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: [email protected] 

RCN T: 0207 647 3633 E: [email protected]
RCM T: 0207 312 3456 E: 
[email protected] 

Notes to editors:  

Click here to read the full version of the letter to Boris Johnson.

The 14 NHS unions are: British Association of Occupational Therapists, British Dietetic Association, British Orthoptic Society, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, College of Podiatry, Federation of Clinical Scientists, GMB, Managers in Partnership, Prison Officers Association, Royal College of Midwives, Royal College of Nursing, Society of Radiographers, UNISON and Unite. 

The RCM is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance, and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences, and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website at