Norfolk NHS staff 'feel used' as union threatens action over pay cap

NHS workers Catherine and Simon Taylor have organised a march in Norwich at the weekend for NHS work

Simon Taylor and his wife Catherine organised a march in Norwich last year. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Healthcare staff in Norfolk feel "used" and "bitterly disappointed" by proposals for a 1pc pay rise for NHS staff. 

The Government has been criticised by health unions which called the move a "kick in the teeth", but ministers defended the proposal at a time when the economy was under "huge pressure" as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

In its submission, the pay review bodies for NHS staff and for doctors and dentists, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the NHS budget was based on a headline pay rise of 1pc.

Simon Taylor, a health care assistant from Norwich, said people felt "used and taken for granted".

He and scores of health workers took part in a silent march last August to demand higher pay for NHS workers and criticised the actions as "weasel words and crocodile tears" at a time when other countries were increasing the wages of health care staff.

He said: "Ten years of pay freezes and less than inflation rises. Ten years of gradually dwindling staff. Ten years of getting poorer quality equipment. Now this? Staff watching patients die. Staff falling ill and dying.

"We feel used and taken for granted. Thanks for nothing."

Health Minister Nadine Dorries has defended the recommendation in a series of interviews on Friday.

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She said: "Everybody in an ideal world would love to see nurses paid far more, but we are coming out of a pandemic where we have seen huge borrowing and costs to the Government.

"I think it is important to note that the priority of the Government has been about protecting people's livelihoods, about continuing the furlough scheme, about fighting the pandemic, and we've put huge effort into that.

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"We do not want nurses to go unrecognised - or doctors - and no other public sector employee is receiving a pay rise, there has been a pay freeze.

"But the 1% offer is the most we think we can afford which we have put forward to the pay review body."

The Royal College of Nursing has announced it is setting up £35m in industrial action in response to the recommendations.

Dame Donna Kinnair,  Royal College of Nursing general secretary, said the amount would do nothing to prevent an "exodus" from nursing. 

The 1pc rise would equate to an extra £3.50 a week for those on the lowest wages, a newly qualified nurse would see less than £5 a week said UNISON.

Helen Maw, Royal College of Nursing senior officer for Norfolk, said: “Nursing staff across Norfolk will have gone to work today bitterly disappointed after hearing that the government believes that a 1% pay rise is a fair and sufficient recognition of their work, particularly after the last year they have endured.

“While this is not yet a done deal, it is incredibly worrying that the government has shown its hand for the first time with such a pitifully low figure. They can expect to see a backlash, not only from the hard-working and dedicated nursing workforce but from the million NHS staff who have been through so much. Even before this pandemic, they have been working through incredibly challenging times with thousands of vacancies and growing demand for NHS services.

“If the government is to tackle the staffing shortages which endanger the lives of patients and drive nursing staff to leave the profession, providing a fair and sufficient pay rise is essential."

“Nursing staff should not feel they are being punished and made to pay for the cost of the pandemic. It is a political decision to underfund and undervalue nursing staff. Nursing deserves a 12.5% increase."

Unison regional organiser Peter Passingham. Photo: Unison

Peter Passingham, UNISON Eastern regional organiser, - Credit: Unison

Peter Passingham, UNISON Eastern regional organiser, said: “After NHS staff have given absolutely everything in the past year, a 1pc offer is like some kind of sick joke.

“Ministers should go back to the drawing board with their tails between their legs and come up with something that doesn’t insult our NHS heroes.

“NHS workers will expect the pay review body to come up with a much more sensible and realistic recommendation than this risible government suggestion.”

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