NHS workers and marchers demand better pay for nurses as they protest outside Downing Street earlier this month (Image: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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NHS staff furious about the Government's "pitiful" offer of a 1% pay hike will take their protest to Downing Street this week.
Boris Johnson will be told "claps don't pay the bills" as a petition signed by 800,000 people calling for him to ditch the "pathetic" 1% – a real terms cut – and instead back a 15% rise will be handed to No10 on Tuesday.
Fears are growing that ministers will fail to back any rise before MPs disappear for their summer break next week, despite the rise being due some 100 days ago.
The Government raised hopes it could back a larger rise following a fierce backlash to its original plan, with ministers saying they would wait for the independent NHS pay review body (PRB) to make a recommendation.
But the body sent its report to ministers some three weeks ago and unions say exhausted NHS staff are "being treated as an afterthought".
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Matthew Tovey, the nurse working in Wales who organised the petition, said for healthcare staff, working during the pandemic "felt like running into a burning building – every single day".
He added: "Our lives were turned upside down. We left our homes, our family, our children in order to work, to save lives.
"And instead of a pay rise, we get a pay restraint. It’s a kick in the teeth when we’re already down."
He added: "We now live in a country where nurses are barely scraping by.
"Over a third skip meals to feed their families and over half work overtime to pay the bills. Pay cuts, freezes and caps have led to a 20% wage loss.
"The Government has a choice to restore this pay – and a meagre 1% is pathetic, pitiful and poor."
NHS staff stage a protest outside St Thomas' Hospital in London
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said on Sunday that a "reasonable" rise would be between 3% and 4%.
He told Times Radio: "That's what I think where the Scottish Government were, at the higher end of that bracket. But interestingly nurses in Scotland weren't particularly happy with that. So I do think there is an important issue here.
"The key point is our staff have been working incredibly hard and it feels to me it is right and proper that we should recognise the contribution that those staff have made.
"It was delightful for the NHS to receive the George Cross but actually we also need to ensure that hard working frontline NHS staff are also paid and remunerated at an appropriate rate and the effort they've put in over the last year is properly recognised."
Healthcare union Unison, meanwhile, has called for a £2,000 increase for every NHS worker.
Head of health Sara Gorton said: “It’s in Boris Johnson’s gift to grant staff a fair deal. Yet he’s still making them wait.
“It’s 320 days since UNISON wrote to Boris Johnson asking for a £2,000 increase for every NHS worker. But health workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland still don’t know what they’ll get nearly eleven months on.
“Staff who've done so much during the pandemic are being treated as an afterthought while MPs head off on their holidays. And infections are rising which means pressure is piling back on the whole health team once again.
“The least the government can do is confirm now that staff will get a decent pay rise.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson has said: “We are incredibly grateful to all our NHS staff. This year the Government has committed to providing NHS staff with a pay uplift, at a time when uplifts in the wider public sector have been paused. In doing so, the Government is acknowledging the extraordinary effort of NHS staff through the pandemic.
“We have received the reports from the independent Pay Review Bodies and are now carefully considering their recommendations before responding.”