Keeping the pressure on for pay

By Stuart Bonar, Public Affairs Advisor on 16 April 2021 Covid-19 Public Health England

When, last month, the UK Government proposed a 1% pay rise for NHS staff in England, there was a huge outcry. This included from many MPs on the Government’s own backbenches.

Why were people so angry? Because the proposed 1% was so derisory. Once we take the likely rate of inflation into account, we can see that 1% would mean NHS staff like midwives and MSWs would actually be getting poorer because their pay wouldn’t be keeping pace with rising prices.

Just think of the huge effort that NHS staff have made over the past year to fight the pandemic and care for literally hundreds of thousands of people hospitalised by it. And staff did that while continuing to offer round-the-clock services like maternity care.

After possibly millions – including even the Prime Minister himself – stood on their doorsteps to applaud NHS staff, how can the Government come forward with such a pitiful proposal?

Working alongside other health unions, the RCM has been working hard to speak with as many parliamentarians as possible, from all parties. And there is a lot of support for NHS staff getting a significant pay rise.

Take, for example, the House of Commons motion backing a “meaningful pay rise” for NHS staff. That now has the public backing of 106 MPs, making it more successful than 99.6% of all other motions of this type. That is a clear sign of the growing level of support in Parliament for a significant NHS pay rise.

We have MPs speaking out on this issue on the floor of the chamber too. On 14 April, Carolyn Harris, Member of Parliament for Swansea East, spoke about the need for a significant pay rise for NHS staff.

NHS staff, she told the House of Commons, “are the very best of Britain” and deserve “the credit and the reward for everything that they have done and everything they have sacrificed to keep the rest of us safe.”

Referencing the impact a poor pay deal would have on staff retention, she continued: “We are on a cliff edge here: we already know that we entered the pandemic with a record 100,000 vacancies across the NHS. If we do not pay the staff what they deserve, we will struggle to retain those we have—let alone fill any vacancies.”

“Our NHS staff,” she concluded, “have not faltered since the start of the pandemic, and they deserve to be rewarded for that.”

We hear too from Conservative backbench MPs in support of a better deal. The MP for North Thanet, Sir Roger Gale, for example, wrote in a national newspaper about NHS pay. He said that the Government “must send a clear message to the NHS” and that “the promised and genuine reward for service has to be forthcoming.” He also echoed those who have said that a good pay rise will help cut the number of vacant posts in the NHS.

This is where we need everyone who supports a significant pay rise for NHS staff to get involved. We need you to contact your MP about this. And if you have done it before – thank you, but can you contact them again? They need to know this is an issue that isn’t going away and the RCM is still fighting, pushing to ensure a decent deal is delivered to our members and all NHS Staff.

You can find loads of information about how to contact your MP and ideas about what to say at the RCM’s dedicated pay campaign page. Thank you.