Should NHS staff strike over pay freeze?

In March MP Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt rejected the independent Pay Review Body’s recommendation to give a one per cent pay rise to UK NHS nurses.

The decision to not award the pay rise has now prompted some NHS staff to retaliate by striking for their right to fair pay.

Against the idea is Sally Cliff, the Deputy Ward Manager at Malton Hospital, North Yorkshire, who believes that nursing is about caring for your patients and saving lives. She says she would never stop to strike when she could save a life within that length of time: “As regards to taking industrial action, I personally would not strike because I think it is against the integrity of what being a nurse is all about.”

But she did express how insulted she was that Jeremy Hunt ignored the recommendation and she said: “I am very disappointed with the rejection of the one per cent pay rise to NHS workers. Our salaries are well behind other similar professions.”

In 2013/14 there was a one per cent pay rise cap put on salaries for all public sector workers. Now, Hunt has denied this so NHS staff will not receive another pay rise for two more years which means over 1,203,519 NHS workers will not be rewarded for all the hard work they do.

Marie Lewis, an NHS nurse at Malton Hospital, North Yorkshire, said: “Jeremy Hunt wouldn’t say no to a pay rise, so why should he deny our pay rise? We should be able to make our own decisions.”

Now around 60 per cent of NHS workers will not get a pay rise, only the staff at the top of their band will receive a non-consolidated one per cent rise but this will not count towards their shift pay or pensions.

UNISON, a UK trade union, is also helping the NHS workers by representing the staff that work for the public services. They are asking for an immediate 1 per cent uplift and to restore the value of NHS pay.

However, Norman Barclay, Ward Manager at the North East Hospital, believes that although it is financially hard, hospitals need so much financially too so they can provide the services that people need. The government do not have the money to accommodate both all the time so they have to find a middle ground, “Everyone wants more money, but you can only afford what you’ve got.”

Malton Hospital is having this issue. The elderly population has grown which means the hospital are trying to accommodate by meeting the local needs. But through providing care for the elderly in their own homes means travelling expenses for NHS staff rise so there will be less money in other areas of nursing at the hospital.

Barclay also explained people go to their GP about illnesses he would never have seen in earlier years as the public’s expectations towards nursing have risen. He said: “People’s expectations have changed so there is not enough money to meet them if they don’t cut the pay; the government have to get it from somewhere else which might result in loss of jobs.”

This is a similar reason as to why Jeremy Hunt denied the one per cent pay rise. He said it would mean losing 15,000 nurses and it could be a risk of creating another Staffordshire Hospital scandal.

On the other hand, UNISON has stated that more than 10,000 jobs were lost last year as a result of the rearrangement of the NHS in England alone. So, is the government correct when they say cutting pay will bring the health workers more jobs?

Mrs Lewis said: “If the government can afford to pay politicians a lot of money and give them a pay rise, why can they not afford to pay health workers?”

Ends (634 words)

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