A deserved boost in pay for NHS staff, who have battled through the pandemic, is ‘the elephant in the room’ in the latest plan for the health service in England, Unite said today (July 30).
Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock today welcomed the launch of the NHS People Plan as a new bureaucracy busting drive, so staff can spend less time on paperwork and more time with their patients.
Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, said that the aims of this latest plan for the NHS would be hampered by the fragmentation caused by the 2012 Health and Social Care Act with its remit for increased competition for NHS services.
Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said, “There have been a plethora of plans for the future of the NHS over the years and this latest manifestation neatly avoids ‘the elephant in the room’ – that of NHS pay.
“NHS staff have worked ceaselessly throughout the pandemic at great risk to themselves and a generous pay rise would recognise that dedication as well as staunch the ‘recruitment and retention’ crisis that is currently afflicting the NHS – for example, there are about 40,000 nursing vacancies in England alone,” he added.
“It is all very well for the plan to trumpet bureaucracy busting measures, but it was the flawed 2012 Act of the then health secretary Andrew Lansley that created the extra bureaucracy by fragmenting the NHS in the first place.
“One of the key chapters of the People Plan is ‘belonging to the NHS’. This terms rings hollow to thousands of health visitors and school nurses cast outside the NHS; or the catering, cleaning, portering and maintenance staff that have been outsourced to private contractors or dispensed to wholly owned subsidiaries.
“The English ideological obsession with marketisation and privatisation in the NHS must be terminated without delay and this report does nothing to address this,” Jarrett-Thorpe went on to say.
“We, of course, welcome such measures in the plan as boosting the mental health and cancer workforce; full risk assessments for vulnerable staff, including BAEM workers; and all jobs to be advertised with flexible working options from January.
“But without addressing the issue of pay, highly skilled NHS staff will consider looking for more lucrative work elsewhere, possibly abroad.”
Last week, chancellor Rishi Sunak awarded up to a 3.1 per cent pay rise for 900,000 public sector workers, including doctors, teachers and police officers. Unite accused the chancellor of having ‘a selective memory’ when it comes to public sector pay, rewarding some, but ignoring hundreds of thousands of others.
By Shaun Noble