Stressed NHS staff are leaving to work in supermarkets because they are so demoralised by years of receiving 1 per cent pay rises or nothing at all, health service bosses warned yesterday (May 7).
NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, said the Tories’ public sector pay cap, which began in 2012 and is due to be enforced until 2020, is endangering patient safety.
Labour has promised to scrap the pay freeze and give NHS staff “the pay they deserve.”
NHS Providers chief executive, Chris Hopson, said that NHS trusts are facing a recruitment and retention crisis and are unable to provide “safe, high-quality patient care”.
“Years of pay restraint and stressful working conditions are taking their toll. Pay is becoming uncompetitive. Significant numbers of trusts say lower paid staff are leaving to stack shelves in supermarkets rather than carry on with the NHS,” said Hopson.
“Trust leaders tell us that seven years of NHS pay restraint is now preventing them from recruiting and retaining the staff they need to provide safe, high-quality patient care. The NHS can’t carry on failing to reflect the contribution of our staff through fair and competitive pay for five more years.
He added, “Pay restraint must end and politicians must therefore be clear about when during the lifetime of the next parliament it will happen and how.”
Adding to the pressure on the NHS is the fact that “vital recruitment from EU countries is dropping rapidly” because of Brexit uncertainty, Hopson said.
He also called for an extra £25bn of funding over the next three years to help the NHS in England cope.
Unite national officer for health, Sarah Carpenter, said the pay freeze was causing severe damage to the NHS.
“The message from NHS Providers could not be clearer: the Tories are wrecking the health service and putting people at risk,” she said.
“How can it be possible to provide adequate patient care when NHS staff are unable to support themselves on their hard earned wages? Nurses are using food banks and staff are leaving to work in supermarkets because of the pay freeze.”
“The NHS is in the midst of the biggest crisis it has ever faced: demand is rising, budgets have been slashed and there’s staff shortages across a range of vital occupations. Yet instead of leading the health service out of the blackhole it is falling into, the Tories want to push it further in. The next government’s priority must be to end the pay cap and restore the NHS back to health.”
Carpenter also welcomed Labour’s pledge to end “immoral” NHS car charges for patients, visitors and NHS staff.
Unite has long called for NHS car park charges to come into line with Scotland and Wales where car parking charges are not levied on NHS staff. Recent research found that some hospitals are charging staff £100 a month to park.
“Labour’s pledge to end NHS car parking charges is a boost to every NHS worker forking out nearly £100 a month to park. It will give them extra money in really tough times,” Carpenter said.
“Charging cash-strapped health visitors, community nurses, biomedical scientists, porters, plumbers and electricians, already hit by seven years of pay freezes and cuts, to park is completely immoral.”
She added, “There are very few other public servants who have to pay for the privilege of parking. Ending NHS parking charges would be a victory for common sense and natural justice.”