Following a virtual round table with Royal College of Nursing (RCN) members from across Birmingham, Liam Byrne, Labour’s candidate for West Midlands Mayor, and Lindsay Meeks, Regional Director of the West Midlands RCN, have written to the Chancellor calling for a pay rise that would ‘properly recognise and value’ the work done by NHS staff.
At the round table with frontline nursing staff, Liam Byrne and Jack Dromey heard from staff traumatised by unprecedented fatalities on wards, the loss of close colleagues, and coping with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of what they have experienced.
In the letter, Liam and Lindsay describe how a decade of real-terms pay cuts have led to chronic staff shortages and a widespread feeling amongst nursing staff of being undervalued and unappreciated. Something they say is ‘deeply unfair given the crucial and vital nature of their work’.
They are calling on the Chancellor to back up warm words with action by ‘guaranteeing a significant and fair pay rise for NHS staff.’
A pay rise, they say, is ‘thoroughly deserved’ and would ‘begin to properly recognise and value the brilliant work carried out every single day by all our fantastic NHS staff.’ Furthermore, it would encourage people to join and stay in the profession and help ‘relieve the chronic staff shortages we are seeing across the NHS.’
Liam Byrne, Labour’s candidate for West Midlands Mayor and MP for Birmingham, Hodge Hill, said:
'Nurses told us they’ve never experienced so much death on the wards. They’ve had to bid goodbye to colleagues in hearses at the hospital. Many find themselves in floods of tears in the car park as they steel themselves to begin their shifts. This is the reality of life for those who go to work to save our lives and the lives of loved ones. Yet I’ve worked in local food banks, where we’ve had nurses collecting food parcels because they don’t earn enough to feed their families.
“Our NHS staff give us their all. And what they now deserve is fair pay rise. NHS staff have seen a decade of real-terms pay cuts and that’s just not right. It doesn’t reflect how much we value the work they do.
“That’s why we’re calling on the Chancellor to turn warm words into action and guarantee NHS staff an above-inflation pay rise. The public have played their part, shown their appreciation, and raised tremendous amounts of money for the NHS. Now the Government must play theirs.
“A clap on a Thursday is all well and good, but it doesn’t pay the bills and it doesn’t help NHS staff feed their families. Let’s show all NHS workers how much they mean to us by giving them what they deserve – a pay rise.”
Lindsay Meeks, Regional Director of the West Midlands RCN, said:
“As nurses and health care workers, we were delighted and humbled by the appreciation shown towards us by the public in their thousands during the Thursday night clap.
“But, even though nursing staff are still tackling a global pandemic in the face of a serious and persistent workforce shortage, the Government continues to undervalue them. It can’t seriously hope to fill thousands of vacancies and protect high standards of patient care whilst suppressing staff pay.
“We are not asking for a COVID-19 bonus. Paying nursing staff fairly for their highly-skilled, highly-dedicated and highly-acclaimed work is a political choice.
“Hospitals and other health services can’t increase pay for their staff from their existing budgets, so the Chancellor must make the right decision and deliver a fully-funded, meaningful pay award.”
Notes to editors:
- Copy of text of the letter sent to the Chancellor:
Re: A pay rise for NHS staff
Today, we held a virtual meeting with Royal College of Nursing members from across Birmingham to hear first-hand their experiences of the pandemic, the pressures the profession has faced, and what they action they would like to see to support the profession moving forward.
What was abundantly clear was the incredible passion and dedication they all show towards caring for others. The stories they told demonstrate their willingness to go above and beyond to ensure patients get the best possible care, something we know is replicated by nursing staff across the West Midlands. But clearly is it is becoming increasingly difficult.
The Covid pandemic has exacerbated the intense pressures on nursing staff and NHS staff more generally. Covid has been a massive and unprecedented challenge for healthcare professionals and, for many, exhausting and stressful both physically and mentally. Widespread staff shortages are only adding to the mounting pressures.
The most recent statistics show there are more than 8,000 registered nurse vacancies in the NHS across the Midlands, a vacancy rate of 11.7%. From the nurses we spoke to today, it is clear the combination of increased demand and staff shortages are leading to high levels of ‘burnout’ amongst healthcare professionals.
The recent announcements surrounding Covid vaccines are extremely welcome and offer a glimmer of light at the end of what has been a very dark tunnel. However, the development and delivery of any vaccine will only add to the pressures faced by NHS staff.
The British public have demonstrated their clear and vociferous appreciation for NHS staff. Both by coming out every Thursday and applauding our key workers, but also by raising an incredible £140 million for NHS Charities Together since the start of the pandemic. This money has been essential in providing support for NHS workers, volunteers and patients caught up in the crisis.
The public have played their part, now Government needs to play theirs.
The shocking reality is that NHS staff have experienced real-terms pay cuts over the past ten years, something that seems deeply unfair given the crucial and vital nature of their work.
That’s why, on behalf of nursing staff across the West Midlands, we are urging you to show how much you value our heroic healthcare professionals by guaranteeing a significant and fair pay rise for NHS staff.
Not only is a pay rise thoroughly deserved, it would also begin to properly recognise and value the brilliant work carried out every single day by our fantastic NHS staff. Furthermore, a pay rise would encourage more people to enter and stay in the profession, helping to relieve the chronic staff shortages we are seeing across the NHS.
It is not enough for Government Ministers to join the nationwide applause or express their thanks in statements. Warm words must now be backed up by action.
I hope you will seriously consider our request and we look forward to your reply on this matter.