Trade union Unite is balloting hospital pharmacists in England and Wales on whether NHS staff should take industrial action over the government’s plan to increase pay by at least £1,400 in 2022/2023.
According to a statement on its website, Unite — which includes the Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists (GHP) — is “recommending its members vote yes to industrial action” in response to what it has described as “a massive national pay cut”.
In July 2022, the government accepted recommendations made by the NHS Pay Review Body to increase pay for all NHS Agenda for Change staff in England by £1,400, backdated to 1 April 2022.
This was followed by a similar statement made by the Welsh government on 22 July 2022, which confirmed that NHS staff in Wales would receive the same uplift.
However, Unite has said the uplift in both countries “works out at 4% for those in the middle pay bands while inflation hovers at just under 12%”, adding: “With no extra money from the government to fund even this paltry pay deal, Unite is angry that workers’ pay is being pitted against patient care in a health service that is already at breaking point.”
This award exceeded the government’s recommendation to the pay review body in February 2022 for a 3% pay rise for staff in England in 2022/2023, having “assumed a headline pay award of 2%” in its budget, following the government’s spending review in October 2021.
In a letter sent to NHS trusts on 20 July 2022, following the pay award, NHS England said the additional cost of the pay increase will require the government “to reprioritise centrally held budget lines including national technology programmes”.
“These savings will allow the NHS to focus on frontline patient care this year but will impact on the ability to deliver on specific plans and goals,” it said.
The GHP, which represents hospital pharmacists as part of Unite, said in a statement on Twitter that all GHP members should have received their ballot by 8 August 2022.
“Unite is recommending you vote ‘yes’ to taking industrial action so that we can make the government listen and negotiate a better deal,” the statement said.
“Industrial action can mean anything that will affect service delivery. This could mean no unpaid overtime worked, taking statutory breaks, reporting unsafe staffing levels, an overtime ban, work to your current job description or a targeted approach for full strike action.”
Commenting on the ballot on possible industrial action, Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe, national officer for health at Unite, said: “The health service is already at breaking point and needs urgent investment to stave off collapse but we also need to reward staff properly. There are already 40,000 vacancies across the NHS. This dreadful pay offer will only make it far harder to recruit and retain staff.”
Richard Munn, lead officer for health in Wales at Unite, said: “Our members working in the NHS in Wales are totally fed up. They’ve given everything to help care for people through this extremely testing time only to be told it is yet another cut to their pay.
“An improved pay offer is crucial to acknowledge what our members do, and to both recruit and retain staff,” he added.
NHS staff in Scotland have been offered a 5% pay award backdated to 1 April 2022, which the government said, in a statement published on 15 June 2022, was “the largest single year increase since devolution” and amounts to pay rises ranging from £1,000 to £2,400.
NHS staff Unite members in England and Wales have until 11 September 2022 to complete their ballot.