NHS 3% pay rise for staff in England 'is insulting', says frontline nurse

ITV News Correspondent Juliet Bremner reports on the latest NHS pay changes

An intensive care nurse who worked on the frontline throughout the Covid pandemic has described the government's 3% payrise offer for NHS staff "meagre" and "insulting".

Emily Huntingford, who works in London, described chaotic workloads during the peak of the pandemic, she said she saw colleagues struggle with their mental and physical health.

Reacting to the announcement that the government would award NHS workers a 3% pay rise in England - which is below the 12.5% requested by the Royal College of Nursing - Ms Huntingford said: "I feel so angry, so let down.

"After the year we've had as a profession, it's completely unacceptable to be offering us such a meagre pay rise.

"The country has seen the exceptional skills that nurses have and the dedication that they have and it's insulting."

'It's insulting' - ICU nurse reacts to announcement that NHS staff will receive a 3% pay rise

She continued: "I did not go into nursing for the money, it's something that you do because you have a passion for it.

"But to not give us (a 12.5% pay rise) when we've had such a long long period of having freezes to our pay- We cannot ask for anything less."

The Department of Health and Social Care originally proposed in March a 1% pay rise in its evidence to the NHS Pay Review Board, saying it was all it could afford.

The board reviewed its offer after looking at evidence submitted by ministers and unions such as the Royal College of Nursing.

Ms Huntingford described chaotic workloads in ICUs during the pandemic peak and said: 'I don't know how we will be able to do that again'

Ms Huntingford said the government is undermining the work that nurses do, especially during the peak of the Covid pandemic, when she and her colleagues were "fighting fires all over the place".

She explained she would often find herself taking care of four ICU patients at a time, rather than the usual one: "You would have one person that was dying and you'd have the screens around them and you'd have to check in to see if they were ok, and as soon as you came out there, you realise another patient was deteriorating, their oxygen levels were really low."

Ms Huntingford said she is worried some of her colleagues will not be able to bear that sort of strain again.

'We're going to have a mass exodus of nurses'

She warned of a "mass exodus" of nurses if the government does not pay NHS staff more.

The nurse explained: "We've all learnt over this year that it's important to be family, and with the meagre amount that they're (nurses are) getting paid, why? Why be here?

"So we're going to have a mass exodus of nurses and that's compounded with a deficit of 40,000 nurses already."

She says people are already leaving the profession and describes receiving weekly emails to sign her colleagues' leaving cards.

Healthcare workers shared their experiences of working on the frontline as the government offered them a pay rise that was below the 12.5% requested

Other healthcare workers shared their experiences of working on the frontline ahead of the government's 3% pay rise announcement.

One mental health nurse, Matt, explained how the service was being inundated with referrals and was struggling to meet demand.

He said: "Currently, we're just underfunded, under-resourced. Staff are burnt out, staff morale is really quite low. It's quite upsetting to see and I don't know how we change that."

Another healthcare worker who takes care of elderly patients said she sometimes needs to work overtime to keep up with the paperwork.

In a video she recorded on her way home from work, she said she had just worked two hours overtime.

But she said this was only possible because her husband could pick her children up on Tuesdays.

An occupational therapist described coming into work only to find several colleagues self-isolating or off-sick. She said: "It's hard to know how we're going to manage seeing all the patients today."

An Intensive care worker, speaking after a 12-hour shift looking after Covid patients while wearing full PPE (personal protective equipment) in a heatwave, said she was drained emotionally and physically.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “NHS staff are rightly receiving a pay rise this year despite the wider public sector pay pause, in recognition of their extraordinary efforts.

"We asked the independent pay review bodies for their recommendations and I’m pleased to accept them in full, with a 3% pay rise for all staff in scope, from doctors and nurses to paramedics and porters.

“We will back the NHS as we focus our efforts on getting through this pandemic and tackling the backlog of other health problems that has built up.

"I will continue to do everything I can to support all those in our health service who are working so tirelessly to care for patients.”