Public want government to keep promises and give the NHS what it needs, poll shows

on 04 May 2021 Midwives Midwifery Workforce England MSWs - Maternity Support Workers Pay NHS Pay Review Body Pay and Agenda For Change NHS Staff NHS Unions

Two thirds of the public believe the government should try harder to find the money for a decent pay rise for NHS staff in England, according to a Savanta ComRes poll published today. 

The research for the UK’s 14 health unions shows public support remains strong for a proper wage rise for health staff including nurses, midwives, healthcare assistants and hospital porters.   

The heads of UNISON, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and Royal College of Midwives (RCM), speaking on behalf of all the health unions, say the findings demonstrate people want the Prime Minister to stand by his promises to NHS staff. 

The survey of more than 2,000 people makes clear a majority of the public (60%) think the 1% rise proposed by the government for NHS workers in England is too low.   

The findings also highlight how two thirds of people (66%) would support the government making additional resources available for a pay rise for NHS staff, following the offer to Scottish NHS staff from their government. 

Health service staff were due their pay rise on 1 April, but delaying tactics from Number 10 means over a million health employees are still waiting, say the leaders of UNISON, RCN and RCM, who between them represent more than 1.3m workers across the UK.  

The unions say ministers must listen to the public and address the needs of the health service which faces another challenging year. A major issue will be dealing with the unprecedented backlog of operations and treatments put on hold because of the pandemic.  

RCM chief executive and general secretary Gill Walton said: "NHS staff work selflessly around the clock to ensure safe care, often working unpaid hours. The government must recognise that, and reverse years of pay stagnation meaning most staff are worse off now than they were a decade ago.       

“If the government wants to retain NHS staff and recruit more, it must really value them. Better pay is affordable and has public support. I urge the government to show it cares for and values them by awarding a decent deal."  

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “NHS workers should have been looking forward to extra money in their pockets this month. But instead they’re still waiting.   

“It’s clear public support for a proper rise is as high as ever. The Prime Minister must do the right thing by trying harder to find the money for the increase staff deserve.” 

Royal College of Nursing acting chief executive and general secretary Pat Cullen said: “This polling is more evidence of the strong public support for a decent pay rise for health and care staff who are still going over and above during this worldwide pandemic. 

“If politicians ignore NHS workers and the public, it’s inevitable more nurses will leave the profession - with patients and the wider public suffering as a result. The public will hold the government to account for the failure to address the pay crisis and the tens of thousands of vacancies.” 

Notes to editors:   

– The poll was carried out by Savanta ComRes who surveyed 2,144 UK adults between 23 and 25 April 2021. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all UK adults.

Savanta ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full tables here.

– The Savanta ComRes data found that three in five (60%) UK adults think the 1% pay rise for NHS staff in England recommended by the government is too low. Two thirds (66%) supported the government making additional resources available for a pay rise for NHS staff in England, as the Scottish government has committed to do, with nearly two in five (39%) strongly supporting this. This compared with 9% overall who opposed this proposal, with 4% strongly opposing it.

A three-year deal for health workers expired on 31 March. They were due a pay rise in April but are still waiting. The government’s evidence to the NHS pay review body has proposed a 1% pay increase. The Prime Minister has told MPs to wait for the pay review body report and that the government won’t make a decision on pay until then. This is likely to mean that the NHS are not likely to get a pay rise until July at the earliest, say the unions. 
The 14 NHS unions representing staff on Agenda for Change terms 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.

Media contacts:
UNISON M: 07834 864794 E: [email protected]
RCN T: 0207 647 3633 E: [email protected]
RCM T: 0207 312 3456 E: [email protected]  

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