An overwhelming majority of Brits want all hardworking NHS staff who battled Covid-19 to get a “significant” pay rise before the end of the year, a poll has confirmed.
It comes after last week Tory Chancellor Rishi Sunak was criticised for awarding inflation-busting pay rises to doctors, GPs and police officers but ignoring frontline healthcare staff.
Ministers claim it is because many health workers are currently in the final year of a three-year deal, with a rise due next April.
But 73% of the public appear to back union chiefs demand that pay rises be brought forward to recognise their work in the pandemic.
Just one in ten (10%) think health workers should wait until next April for a rise.
A minority (6%) believe any wage increase should be postponed until the government judges the time appropriate.
And staff have spoken out about the sense of betrayal in seeing a Tory minister, who just weeks ago were clapping for the NHS, now selling workers short.
Karen Kearney, a bereavement officer at Liverpool Heart & Chest NHS Foundation Trust said: “Visitors weren’t allowed so patients had to come into hospital alone.
“Often the last time people saw their loved ones was when they came in poorly “It was very difficult and emotional work.
“The government briefings were all about ‘we love the NHS’ and people were cheering for us.
“But now there’s a sense we’ve been forgotten about, an early pay rise is needed now.”
Darren Tudor-Green, a health care assistant at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital volunteered to look after Covid-19 patients.
He said: “We’ve been willing to put our lives on hold and on the line to ensure people get the best possible care when they need it most.
“The team in which I work is full of people who, even before the pandemic,
put their jobs above everything else.
“They deserve to be recognised for that, I hope the government can see that we really are the key workers keeping the country running.”
Last week’s announcement will see pay rises for 900,000 workers, but not many healthcare professionals.
At the start of the month, UNISON and 13 other health unions – representing more than 1.3 million NHS employees across the UK – urged the Chancellor and Prime Minister to provide the funding for an early pay rise for all staff.
Teachers in England, and dentists and doctors across the UK will see increases of 3.1% and 2.8% respectively.
Police and prison officers in England and Wales will be given a 2.5% rise in pay, while members of the armed forces across the UK will get 2%.
Members of the judiciary and senior civil servants across the UK will also see their pay topped up by 2%.
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.
“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.”
The poll was carried out by Savanta ComRes who surveyed 2,085 UK adults between 17 and 19 July 2020.