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The vast majority of the public think nurses deserve a pay rise, and most think it should be in pockets before the end of this financial year, according to a new poll carried out on behalf of Unison.
It found that 85% of 2,000 UK adults polled supported a wage increase for NHS staff, who have gone above and beyond to keep the health service afloat and protect lives during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Enough of hands together – people want to see hands in pockets, and now”
Under current plans, NHS workers on the Agenda for Change contract will not eligible for a wage increase until April 2020, when the current three-year pay deal comes to an end.
However, unions are lobbying the government to push the negotiations forward.
Frontline nurses and midwives across the country have also taken it upon themselves to organise demonstrations to demand an early pay rise, with a national day of action planned on 8 August.
It comes after the government excluded nurses from its recent public sector pay award announced last week.
The poll, conducted by market research company Savanta ComRes between 17-19 July 2020, revealed that the public backed the idea of a new NHS pay deal being agreed sooner than planned.
Of those surveyed, 73% think NHS staff should get a pay rise between now and the end of March 2021.
Most (69%) think it should be awarded before the end of this year, and nearly two in five (39%) believe it should happen immediately.
Just one in 10 (10%) think health workers should wait until next April for a rise, while 6% believe any wage increase should be postponed until the government judges the time appropriate.
Meanwhile, two thirds (66%) of members of the public surveyed believe the wage increase implemented should be “significant” in recognition of the efforts of staff during the coronavirus pandemic.
Commenting on the findings, Unison head of health Sara Gorton (pictured above) said: “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 government must urgently bring forward the NHS pay round”
She said an early wage increase should ensure the NHS was “fit to face the winter ahead and all that may bring”.
“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,” added Ms Gorton.
“Enough of hands together – people want to see hands in pockets, and now.”
Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said the survey findings should “cause ministers to wake up to the strength of public feeling”.
She added: “The government must urgently bring forward the NHS pay round and a resulting significant pay rise for NHS staff. Asking them to wait to 2021 is unacceptable.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are committed to supporting the entire NHS and social care workforce.
“We are incredibly grateful for all their hard work and dedication during the pandemic and we will continue to ensure all staff are rewarded fairly.”