Health leaders have urged the Government to give the lowest paid full time NHS staff a greater pay rise than last year to help them cover rising costs.
Failing to support staff during the worsening cost-of-living crisis could drive lower paid staff out of the workforce, worsening the current crisis, leaders from the NHS Confederation claimed.
It comes after inflation hit a 40 year high of 9% in April.
Around 60,000 staff are on the lowest NHS pay point, earning £18,870 a year, with both the NHS Confederation and trade union UNISON calling on the Government to bolster staff’s pay.
The NHS Confederation has warned that not increasing pay those staff earning just 15p above the national minimum wage – well below the ‘real living wage’ – risks further undermining efforts to recruit and retain nurses and health care support staff.
A number of staff are instead leaving the health service for higher paying jobs in the private sector, including high street stores and hospitality, paying around £10 an hour, which the Confederation noted is 35p more than the NHS offers band 2 starters.
Health leaders called for a 4% pay rise for staff on band 2 terms and conditions of service (TCS) contracts, rather than the 3% rise expected to be announced next month.
This would translate to an extra £500 take-home pay and would add an extra £15-20m to the NHS pay bill above that already planned.
UNISON similarly wrote to health secretary Sajid Javid warning that staff leaving over poor pay would lead to longer ambulance queues, growing waiting lists and worse health for the pubic.
The letter was signed by 35,000 health staff and members of the public.
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: ‘Without a pay rise which at least matches what some parts of the private sector are offering, we are at real risk of a mass exodus of healthcare staff on the lowest pay who are quitting the NHS to search out jobs in better paid sectors including supermarkets, pubs and high street shops.
‘Staff leaving the NHS at a time when they are most needed will also jeopardise the gains the health service is making in clearing the waiting list backlog.
‘Any increase in the pay award for NHS must also be properly funded by the Government and not passed on as a cost to individual organisations who are also grappling with soaring inflation.’
Last year, the Government initially offered NHS staff a 1% pay rise, which was then tripled following sharp criticism within and outside the sector.