69% of public think all NHS staff should get early pay rise, says new poll

Sienna Rodgers

69% of the British public believe that all NHS staff should get an early pay rise before the end of the year, according to a new poll conducted by Savanta ComRes for Labour-affiliated trade union UNISON.

The research also found that two thirds – 66% – think the wage increase for healthcare employees should be “significant” in light of the coronavirus pandemic context that has put frontline workers in danger.

NHS workers are currently in the final year of a three-year pay deal, and they are not due to pay rise until April 2021. The government has cited this deal as a reason for not awarding them a pay rise in 2020.

The Chancellor last week announced a pay bump of up to 3.1% for public sector workers including doctors, teachers and police officers – but social care workers, nurses and others were left out of the new offer.

UNISON has cited the results of the new poll as proof that there is “substantial public support for a new pay deal to be agreed now for health service workers, many of whom have risked their own safety to protect everyone else”.

NHS workers who say they have been “criminally let down” by the government’s decision will march on Downing Street on Wednesday 29th July at 5pm in a protest spearheaded by trade unionists.

Trade union Unite’s branch at Guy’s and St Thomas Hospital in London has partnered with the Keep Our NHS Public campaign and Nurses United, as part of a nationwide demand for an immediate pay rise.

The UNISON poll that surveyed over 2,000 people also found that 73% support an early pay rise for NHS staff between now and the end of March 2021, with 69% saying it should be awarded before the end of 2020.

Just one in ten believe that health workers should wait until April 2021 for a rise, according to the poll, while 66% of those surveyed indicated that NHS should received a medium or large increase in pay.

Commenting on the findings, UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said: “Last week was the perfect opportunity for the government to show it’s in tune with public opinion and commit to an early pay rise for NHS staff.

“It’s clear the public backs an early increase and to ignore them would be at the government’s own peril. Any attempt to deny staff a significant wage increase could rebound badly.”

The UK recorded a further 119 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday according to the official government update. This Public Health England figure includes anyone who tested positive for Covid-19 and died, and does not include those who died from Covid without testing positive.

Amid unreliable figures for the UK as a whole, the town of Oldham has reported a surge in coronavirus cases and health officials are therefore introducing new restrictions to avoid a local lockdown as seen in Leicester.

Meanwhile, there are fears of a resurgence during the winter in the UK, with a recent report suggesting that a “reasonable worst case scenario” could see 120,000 more hospital patients die from Covid-19.

Gorton added: “A wage increase needs sorting right away so the NHS is fit to face the winter ahead and all that may bring. It would help boost the economy too, as health workers spend the extra money in their pockets locally.

“Health unions have made a clear and reasonable case – it’s down to the government to act and prove how much it values the NHS and its staff. Enough of hands together – people want to see hands in pockets, and now.”

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