NHS staff in England, including hospital pharmacists, should “consider some form of industrial action” to make the government reconsider its offer of a 3% pay rise, the Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists (GHP) has said.
The GHP’s comments to The Pharmaceutical Journal on 24 August 2021 come ahead of a consultative ballot that will be sent out on 27 August 2021 to all Unite members who work in the NHS.
A statement from Unite, made on 6 August 2021, said the ballot will ask members if they “wish to take industrial action” over the government’s decision to implement a 3% pay increase for NHS staff — including hospital pharmacists.
When the NHS pay increase was announced on 21 July 2021, the GHP said it was “extremely disappointed” as it “falls below the current rate of inflation and when you include the drop in pay of 15% over the [past] 11 years, it does little for our members and the profession”.
In a further statement made to The Pharmaceutical Journal on 24 August 2021, Ewan Maule, vice president of the GHP, said it was “encouraging all members to take part in the consultative ballot being held from 27 August until 24 September 2021”.
“To make sure members have their say on what happens next, all members are being encouraged to check their contact details held by Unite to ensure they receive the information about the ballot and the consultative ballot itself,” he said.
“[The] GHP recognises that its members and all other NHS staff have all been through such a lot in the [past] 18 months and are exhausted, but also that to make the government think again it will be necessary to consider some form of industrial action (whilst keeping patients safe).”
Maule said that the nature of any industrial action “would need to be decided at a later date”, adding that strike action “is still a long way away… but there are of course other forms of industrial action”.
Hospital pharmacists previously went on strike for four hours in 2014, after the government rejected the NHS Pay Review Body’s recommendation for a 1% pay rise for all NHS staff.
Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe, national officer for health at Unite, said: “We will be holding a consultative ballot of members about this [the pay rise] and an indicative industrial action ballot simultaneously to see if they wish to proceed to a full-scale industrial action ballot, which will include the option for strike action.
“By adopting this twin-track approach, Unite’s national health committee will be able to gauge very accurately the depth of members’ feelings towards this 3% pay offer.”
The ballot of NHS staff in England follows the announcement of a similar ballot of NHS staff in Wales, which opened on 17 August 2021, asking whether Unite members “accept or reject the 3% pay rise that Welsh government will be implementing”.
Eluned Morgan, health minister for Wales, also announced a 3% pay rise for Welsh NHS staff on 21 July 2021, saying that she wanted to “thank our Welsh NHS staff for their extraordinary efforts over the course of this pandemic“.