Tag Archives: NHS

Covid-19 reinforces the case for a ‘substantial’ pay rise for NHS staff, says Unite

The coronavirus pandemic reinforces – not diminishes – the strong case for the NHS workforce to receive a ‘beyond substantial’ pay rise for 2021-22, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Friday 3 July).

Unite has joined with 13 other health unions and professional organisations to launch a campaign today to demand that pay talks start as soon as possible out of respect for the dedicated NHS staff who have battled Covid-19.

Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health sector, said that the last three year pay deal had started to rectify the pay deficit, but this now needs to be substantially built on.

Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “Warm words of praise by ministers and the weeks of Thursday evening clapping by a grateful nation are only part the story – and that’s why a generous pay rise is required to repair the damage of the last decade when pay in real terms was eroded by an estimated 20 per cent.

“A ‘softly, softly’ approach will fall on fallow ground, as the Tory ‘mask’ on the NHS begins to slip away – last week some 331 Conservative MPs opposed a motion that would have led to weekly testing of NHS workers and care staff.

“This hard-faced attitude was also highlighted by care minister Helen Whately who confirmed the government had ‘no plans’ to backdate a new financial support package that is set to be introduced for students starting this autumn.

“Now the lockdown is being eased, it was clear the Tories are reverting to type when it comes to their distaste for public services, of which the NHS is ‘the jewel in the crown’.

“Doctors, nurses and health workers of all hues, including student nurses and those who came out of retirement, stepped up to the plate big-time when the lockdown was imposed in March and the NHS was under severe pressure – and, sadly, more than 300 NHS and social care workers have now died after being infected with coronavirus.

“NHS staff don’t want ministerial platitudes on pay on the eve of the NHS’ 72nd birthday on Sunday (5 July), but a beyond substantial pay rise for their commitment, especially over the last few months when they have put their lives on the line, literally.

“As society returns slowly to the ‘new normal’, the government cannot be allowed to forget the dedication of NHS staff.”

Before lockdown, NHS Digital reported that between January and March this year, there were 84,393 advertised full-time equivalents in England – these ‘recruitment and retention’ issues are still relevant and important, and need to be addressed by health and social care secretary Matt Hancock.

An uplift in pay will start to tackle these recruitment problems.

Unite has signed-up to the plan of the joint health unions to bring about better pay for NHS staff, which Unite believes has widespread public support.

Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe added: “People are fully engaged with the concept that without the NHS and its staff, the appalling death toll of nearly 44,000 would be even worse – and that the years of underfunding must cease. Increased funding must include budgets to tackle the backlog in non-Covid operations and procedures.

“Many, including prime minister Boris Johnson, owe their lives to the NHS – and now is the time to recognise that 24/7 commitment with a decent pay rise that reflects the sentiments of a grateful and relieved country.”

Boris Johnson’s ‘gung-ho’ messaging heightens A&E fears as pubs reopen

NHS ambulance and A&E staff are braced ‘with a great deal of trepidation’  for the fall-out from the mass opening of pubs in England on Saturday, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, warned today (Wednesday 1 July).

If that happens, Unite will blame the ‘gung-ho and mixed messaging’ from prime minister Boris Johnson for putting too much emphasis on the easing of the lockdown and not sufficient weight on the need to still follow the social distancing rules.

The warning from Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, came as Britons were estimated to spend £200 million in pubs this weekend, as the hospitality sector reopens on Saturday (4 July).

Already Unite’s 3,000 ambulance members have reported in the last few weeks an increase in accidents at illegal parties; more young people saying they have Covid-19 symptoms; and an increase in ‘non-essential’ calls that could be dealt with by such services as NHS 111.

There has also been an increase in the use of nitrous oxide, also known as ‘laughing gas’, at these illegal parties. These canisters can be purchased cheaply off the internet.

Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “Our ambulance members have reported an increase in calls in recent weeks and, unfortunately, some of them are related to the flouting of the social distancing rules.

“So it is with deep concern that our members in the ambulance service and in A&E departments are preparing themselves for the fall-out from a badly behaved minority when pubs reopen on Saturday.

“If that happens, we will blame the gung-ho mixed messaging from Boris Johnson who has put more emphasis on easing the lockdown and people enjoying themselves this weekend than with telling people to adhere strictly to the social distancing measures. 

“Unite is not trying to restrict people’s enjoyment and we fully support our members in the hospitality sector who have had a really tough time since March.

“But people need to heed the advice of England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty who has said social distancing remains vital, otherwise the rates of Covid-19 infection will rise again, as has been seen in Leicester.

“Sunday (5 July) is the NHS’ 72nd birthday, so it would be a rich irony that after weeks of Thursday evening clapping and warm words of ministerial praise, dedicated NHS staff spend the weekend clearing up drunken vomit due to mixed messaging.”

Chair of the Unite ambulance committee Debbie Wilkinson said: “Our members are bracing themselves with a great deal of trepidation about what is going to happen this weekend, when excessive drinking could see many more visits to A&E departments.

“Ambulance colleagues have noticed for some time that some people are not following the rules and this is really serious as we have more than 43,000 deaths in the UK from Covid-19. We have seen a rise in young, fit people signalling that they have coronavirus symptoms.

“There has been an increase in accidents at illegal parties, as well as the use of nitrous oxide, also known as ‘laughing gas’.

“Sadly, we have also seen more people getting in touch, following the lockdown, with very serious illnesses, such as cancer, who should have been seen during the last few months. For some, unfortunately, it is too late.

“People need to behave with responsibility and consideration for others this weekend and not put the NHS under further pressure.”

Unite welcomes Labour’s ‘care for carers’ demands in wake of Covid-19 impact

Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, has welcomed Labour’s demands to provide fast-tracked mental health services for three million NHS and care workers.

The union said Labour’s plans would provide ‘much needed support’ for the mental wellbeing of health and care staff who have faced increased pressures and distress during the pandemic.

Unite national officer Jacalyn Williams said: “These plans would create much needed support for the mental health of NHS and care staff who have faced the brunt of the worst impacts of the pandemic day after day.

“Having lost patients and colleagues, and with the threat of the virus to themselves and their loved ones ever present, it is no surprise that the mental health of staff in the health and social care sector has suffered.

“After years of service cuts, staff shortages and increased workloads, there was already a mental health crisis amongst health and social care workers, but the pandemic has made the situation a lot worse.

“Unite welcomes Labour’s proposals and calls on the government to implement them as soon as possible.”

Leicester virus spike needs everyone to play their part to protect public health and prevent job losses

The union is also urging central government to assist with additional resources for the health and public services across the region, and for the furlough programme to continue at the full rate to prevent employers in the area laying workers off as they face an inevitable further delay in re-opening the economy.

Commenting, Unite’s regional secretary for the East Midlands, Paresh Patel, said: “This spike in coronavirus cases across the city is extremely worrying.  Everyone needs to now play their part in getting this under control as rapidly as possible with localised lockdowns as necessary.

“There will be some factors causing this spike, such as over-crowded housing and the inequalities we know make Leicester’s BAEM community especially vulnerable to this deadly virus.

“But combatting coronavirus is a national duty as well as a local one so I urge the government to step up and help with whatever additional funding is needed to ensure that the NHS has the resources that it needs, and to assist employers through what will inevitably be an extended period of economic inactivity.  

“Everything that can be done must be done to protect the public’s health and to avoid layoffs and even more damage to an already badly damaged regional economy.

“Working people need to be able to stay home and isolate in order to get this virus under control but they can only do that if they know that they will have an income.  It is vital that then that the furlough scheme is extended as a matter of urgency but also where workers not on furlough are forced home sick that they get statutory sick pay from day one and on a rate that supports decent living.

“I urge the government at Westminster to learn the lessons from Leicester.  We are not out of this crisis and our communities and economies are extremely fragile.  You have promised to do `whatever it takes’ to support people during these frightening times, so now is your chance to show the people of Leicester that you keep your promises.”

Labour supports calls for an immediate commitment to pay talks for NHS workers

Speaking at a virtual NHS rally this afternoon, Labour Leader Keir Starmer will say:

“This weekend we celebrate the anniversary of our National Health Service and the incredible staff who make our NHS what it is: our nation’s proudest achievement, and our greatest asset.

“In recent months, NHS staff have served selflessly on the frontline against Covid-19. For every life tragically lost, many more have been saved by the actions of our NHS heroes.

“That’s why Labour supports those calling on the Government today to make an immediate commitment to pay talks for NHS workers.

“We know that valuing our NHS workforce, through fair pay and conditions, is crucial to tackling the many vacancies across the NHS.

“And we urge the Government to agree this deal as soon as possible, in recognition of the bravery and sacrifice shown by our healthcare heroes during this crisis.

“We cannot clap our carers for weeks, then fail to back it up with meaningful action. We must show our NHS staff the same commitment they have shown our country in its hour of need.”

Care for Carers package needed to support mental health of 3 million NHS and care staff

Care for Carers package needed to support mental health of 3 million NHS and care staff

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP, Labour’s Shadow Mental Health Minister, today calls for a shake-up of mental health support to ensure that, for the first time ever, 3.1 million NHS and care workers get the same fast-tracked help and advice.

Labour has designed a new four-stage Care for Carers package to cover all NHS and social care staff in England, including contracted workers such as porters, cleaners and support staff who are doing vital and often distressing work during the coronavirus pandemic and are more likely to be low paid and on insecure contracts.

The package, staffed by paid professionals, includes:

1.   A new national hotline available 24 hours a day, seven days a week

2.   Follow-up support, including specialist assessments and referrals

3.   Intervention and treatment, including specialised PTSD support

4.   Follow-up and sign-posted to external services, such as alcohol and addiction services

Current support available is inadequate because it does not cover private sector staff doing NHS and social care work, and there are long waiting lists and significant regional variations. In some areas, nurses can wait for a year for an appointment. The current Covid-19 support hotline offers emotional support and signposting, but does not lead on to psychological therapies.

Labour is also calling for the Government to appoint a new independent national wellbeing guardian to coordinate and oversee the support, and to hold the Government and NHS employers to account. The watchdog would work with unions, NHS Trusts, local authorities and care providers to ensure all staff know how to access the scheme and give them the confidence that their wellbeing was being championed and protected.

The pandemic has exacerbated an already grim picture for staff mental health. Almost five million working days were lost to poor mental health in 2019; stress is estimated to account for over 30% of NHS staff absence at a cost of up to £400 million a year; the BMA says 41% of doctors suffer with depression, anxiety, stress and other mental health conditions relating to their work; and more than half of carers say they are emotionally exhausted, according to the IPPR.

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan said:

“Even before the pandemic hit, the case for investing in this kind of support was clear. Coronavirus has exacerbated the existing crisis in mental health.

“Many NHS and social care staff have been scared of going to work, and they have lost patients and colleagues. It has been heartbreaking to witness the toll this virus has taken on staff mental health.

“Current support is not good enough, and without a tailored, fast-tracked service for staff who have faced death and despair every day for over three months, our frontline heroes will continue to be failed.

“We need to care for our carers. It is time for the Government to give back to those who have sacrificed so much to keep our loved ones safe. Unless our staff are protected, they cannot continue their vital work of keeping us all safe.”

Community and co-operative responses urgently need to be unleashed now ahead of any second wave – Joe Fortune

The Westminster Government doesn’t have the answers or wherewithal to prepare us for a possible second wave. Outside of somehow escaping a recurrence or having a vaccine, our hopes lie with ourselves and our ability for co-operation.

Despite the pain and disruption Coronavirus has caused, communities across the UK responded to this crisis not with division, but with co-operation. We befriended neighbours, joined mutual aid groups, donated to foodbanks and more. We came together in solidarity.

Co-operatives, as businesses rooted in their communities, contributed heavily to that effort. They were at the forefront of a national effort to feed the country during the current crisis. They were the first to announce that no child should go hungry because schools were closed. They were the first to back food banks struggling because of panic buying.

Two thirds of people want to keep the renewed sense of community found during the crisis. So as we emerge from this first wave of the virus, we must ask ourselves how we will maintain this co-operation and community spirit, and indeed what it says about the kind of nation we want to be post-lockdown.

The Government now has growing charge sheet in terms of its own decision-making abilities and it is clear that the British people don’t trust this Prime Minister’s judgement in relation to Covid-19. We don’t have faith that the Government has all the answers – and in absence of other solutions, communities must be immediately incentivised, organised and guided to work together like at no other time in our history. This isn’t just about dealing with the aftermath of lockdown, but preparing ourselves for a potential second wave – which the Government is patently failing to do.

Of course, it won’t be easy or straight forward – but it is necessary. A powerful recent piece co-authored by Kirsty McNeil of Save the Children powerfully put across the need for a volunteer army to catch-up children’s educations post-lockdown. It also pointed to the view of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration that the three-quarters of a million people who signed up as NHS Responders risk being turned off volunteering altogether as a result of the handling and lack of success of the scheme.

However, there are fantastic examples of more organic and co-operative spirited activity right across the country. From fantastic new platforms like the Co-op Group’s Co-operate website to 3DCrowd, which has 8000 volunteers knocking out over 150,000 facemasks. So many communities already stepped up where the Government failed: when the lack of PPE endangered lives and rendered Government decisions redundant or counter-productive, the Harrogate Scrubbers stepped in to raise money for and make large quantities of PPE for their local hospital. These are among so many more examples to be chosen from.

So whether it be a volunteer army helping with education or a large-scale community push towards generating the vital protective kit like masks and PPE, we know our communities are ready to serve. We know the solution lies in co-operation.  What the Government could help with is the guiding, the incentivising and the opening of doors and minds to make it happen – then we might be better prepared for any second wave that may come.food


A national care service is the only way to prevent more deaths

Fundamental reform is needed to create a system fit for the future

The pandemic has exposed the fault lines in the social care system, which requires substantial reform if its many structural, financial and operational weaknesses are to be tackled, says UNISON in a new strategy document released today (Wednesday).

Care After Covid: A Vision for Social Care sets out how the fragmented, crisis-riven sector could be transformed into a national care system. One that the union says could cope with the day-to-day challenges of caring for vulnerable people and be better prepared for a future health emergency of the same severity as the current pandemic.

Improved regulation and government oversight, better staff pay, stringent UK-wide professional standards, robust workers’ rights, and strategic long-term investment could help create a resilient care system that resembles the NHS more, says UNISON.

Significant emergency funding is crucial to protect the elderly and disabled from Covid-19 and any future crises, says the document.

Prior to the pandemic, the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee called for an immediate investment of £8 billion in the sector. But far more will be needed before the end of the current Parliament if a care system is to be created that’s fit for purpose, says UNISON.

The extra cash should be used to invest in the workforce and fund local councils. This is so they have the resources and expertise to step in and take over care homes – if providers go bust – and run care services themselves.

In future, social care must become an important economic sector providing high-quality, well-paid jobs and no longer seen as a drain on the public purse. It has the potential to be part of the solution for local economies that have lost jobs because of the virus, says UNISON.

Care staff must be paid at least the real living wage – currently £10.75 in London, £9.30 an hour elsewhere – and there must be a new standard employment contract that includes sick pay, hours to be worked and payment for all the time they’re on duty.

Currently, many care workers are on zero-hours contracts, with little job security and without paid holidays or sick pay. Staff working out in the community and moving between care appointments often aren’t paid for their travel time, while some providing overnight care are not paid for every hour of those shifts, despite being on call.

The pandemic has exposed the poverty pay of care staff who earn so little some have had to choose between feeding their families or risking their health, and that of those they care for. Many couldn’t afford to take time off to self-isolate. Workers have been forced to make ends meet on statutory sick pay of just £95.85 a week and food banks, says UNISON.

UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Social care is the forgotten frontline, but the time for talking is over. For too long the care system has been weighted towards price and profit. Nothing less than a national care service will suffice.

“Vulnerable people have been pushed from pillar to post as owners and care providers jostle for a bigger slice of the pie.

“Underpaid, undervalued and undermined staff are at breaking point. The Covid-19 crisis has further exposed just how desperately the care sector needs reform.

“The NHS must be its inspiration. Any reform must build on the few positives to come from the pandemic – that care staff are highly skilled people, providing quality care, despite the many challenges they face.

“Never again should there be vulnerable people dying in their thousands in care homes because of poor planning, ignorance, or the relentless pursuit of profits. The government must introduce fundamental reform to create a system fit for the future, providing care for everyone who needs it.”

Care After Covid: A Vision for Social Care makes a series of recommendations, including:

· Everyone working in the care sector should undergo a minimum level of training to drive forward professionalisation and raise standards.

· Care workers must be added to the government’s shortage occupation list. Many are from overseas but proposed immigration changes will prevent anyone earning less than £25,600 from coming here.

· Local authorities responsible for sourcing care for local residents should only purchase services from providers that pay their taxes, recognise unions, provide staff with standard work contracts and pay at least the real living wage.

· There must be a move away from the complex commissioning model to a national care system, based on the NHS, where care is free at the point of need.

Ambulance staff in Northern Ireland to receive backdated pay boost, says UNISON

Hundreds of workers will see pay bands lifted

Hundreds of ambulance workers in Northern Ireland are to receive a pay rise amounting to several thousand pounds each, following an extensive period of campaigning and negotiation by UNISON.

Members of the union voted overwhelmingly to accept the pay offer from the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service HSC Trust, which will be backdated to the beginning of 2017.

The change affects emergency medical technicians (EMT), paramedics and rapid response paramedics (RRP) who will see their pay bands upgraded within the Agenda for Change pay structure.

EMTs will move from band four to five, while paramedics and RRPs will move from band five to six.

The changes will benefit the affected ambulance staff to the tune of £7 million, which includes the backdated payments.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “This pay rise will make a real difference to ambulance workers, recognising their skills and experience.

“It’s the second big victory this year for UNISON in Northern Ireland after NHS workers were given pay parity with staff in other parts of the UK. Congratulations are due for securing this latest agreement.”

UNISON Northern Ireland’s head of bargaining Anne Speed said: “Ambulance staff are at the heart of delivering care to patients and their families.

“They fully deserve respect and recognition for all they do – every day of the week, 24 hours a day. Hundreds of our members have been waiting for quite some time for this pay banding improvement.”

Easing of lockdown must happen safely

Avoiding ​a second wave in the autumn ​is vital

Commenting on the Prime Minister’s announcement today (Tuesday) that there is to be a further easing of the lockdown, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said:

“Many people will jump at the chance to see more family and friends, and visit pubs and restaurants, but others will be understandably cautious.

“Good public services need a thriving economy and the spectre of mass unemployment – particularly among the young – must be avoided.

“But the slow return to normal must happen safely. Squandering the lockdown sacrifices ​and progress made in the past three months would be foolish.

“All workplaces opening up must make proper risk assessments of the virus threat. Avoiding ​a second wave in the autumn and preventing the NHS, social care ​and other public services from being overwhelmed ​is vital.”