Public urged to join slow handclap against 1% pay offer for NHS workers

Unions have urged the public to slow handclap the government over its 1% pay rise offer for NHS workers. Credit: PA

The public is being urged to stand on their doorsteps and balconies on Thursday to slow handclap the government over its controversial proposal for a 1% pay rise for NHS staff.

The suggested action, backed by health unions and the TUC, is the latest step in a campaign aimed at achieving an increased pay increase for health workers.

The council of the Royal College of Nursing has also set up a £35 million industrial action fund.

Anger continues to rage over the government recommending a 1% increase in its submission to the NHS Pay Review Body, which will make an announcement in May.

Critics saying the pay rise suggestion actually amounts to a real-terms pay cut when inflation is taken into account.

Thursday’s event is aimed at mirroring the weekly applause for health workers last year, and takes place at 8pm – the first anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring Covid-19 a global pandemic.

The slow handclap will be repeated three weeks later on April 1, the day staff were due to have their next wage increase.

Unison head of health Sara Gorton said: “The chancellor and the prime minister should be ashamed of treating health staff so shabbily.

"This is the chance for the public to call them out on pay.

“Everyone in the NHS has coped in the toughest conditions this past year.

"Many have faced the trauma of patients dying, the exhaustion from endless shifts and the strain of chronic understaffing.

“Yet the government has shown them zero respect for keeping the NHS on its feet.

"Now let’s give health staff our support this evening by showing the government exactly what we all think of its 1% proposal.”

Amid the payrise proposal, nurses on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis have told ITV News of the financial struggles they face on a daily basis.

Detailing the difficulties they have faced during the past year, one nurse revealed she was left without hot water for four months, unable to afford the cost of repairs, while a mother-of-two had to claim universal credit amid fears she would default on her mortgage.

Nursing Notes & Nurses United found that 85% of nurses said they are running in a financial deficit - essentially spending more each month than they earn.

And 41% of nurses they "frequently" worked below safe minimum staffing levels, putting patient care at risk.

Jemma James and her husband both have full time jobs in the NHS. A flood has left her home like a "building site", because she has been unable to fix the things which are broken.

Leah Sparks, a specialist nurse from Essex, has also struggled financially throughout her career.

Three years ago, she became a single mother and has to care for her young twins.

Struggling to pay the mortgage, bills and credit cards means she has to claim Universal Credit for help.

She said: "It has been really hard - a few years ago I became a single parent and all the responsibility fell to me and I couldn't cope financially.

"I was on a part time salary while trying to care for my twin boys. I worked extra shifts to try to pay bills which took away from time with my sons and I applied for universal credit, which I didn't dream I'd have to do."

At work, Covid has left her and other NHS staff under immense pressure. The ratio of patients to staff means they have been unable to meet the NHS guidelines, and she says the "quality of care is going to suffer".

She added: "I don't think they are aware and I don't know how much longer we can continue the way we are."

A government spokesperson said: “Over one million NHS staff continue to benefit from multi-year pay deals agreed with trade unions, which have delivered a pay rise of over 12% for newly qualified nurses and will increase junior doctors’ pay scales by 8.2%.

“Pay rises in the rest of the public sector will be paused this year due to the challenging economic environment, but we will continue to provide pay rises for NHS workers, on top of a £513 million investment in professional development and increased recruitment.

"That’s with record numbers of doctors and 10,500 more nurses working in our NHS compared to last year, and with 2021 nursing university applications up by over a third.

“We have asked the independent pay review bodies to report in late spring and we will consider their recommendations carefully when we receive them.”