News

25.07.17

Unions warn of pay cap effect as vacancies skyrocket by 30% in two years

Warnings have been raised by a pair of major unions representing NHS workers after figures revealed worrying gaps in the health service workforce.

Data released by NHS Digital showed that vacancies for full-time positions had grown from 23,427 in February 2015 to 30,613 in March 2017 – a rise of 30%.

It was also revealed that the number of nurses and health visitors had plummeted by 1,049 in just one month, from March to April this year.

The figures showed that in quarter 1 this year, between January to 31 March, there were 86,035 advertised full-time vacancies in the NHS compared with 78,112 in the same period in 2016.

Today, major unions Unite and the GMB have blamed the “perfect storm” of pay austerity, Brexit uncertainty and constant service reorganisation for the rise in vacancies in the workforce.

“The NHS is faced with a perfect storm over recruitment, which is disclosed in the sharp and very disturbing rise in advertised vacancies in England,” said Unite national officer for health Sarah Carpenter.

“The three main factors that need to be urgently addressed by health secretary Jeremy Hunt are the harsh pay austerity regime; the impact of Brexit on the estimated 55,000 EU nationals working for the NHS; and the obsession with constant reorganisation, the latest being the 44 controversial sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) in England.”

Carpenter also argued that since 2010, the majority of the NHS workforce had seen their pay packets eroded by at least 14% in real terms – another major factor in the exodus from the health service. 

“The government’s failure, so far, to come to an agreement on EU nationals staying in a post-Brexit UK is leading to vital EU workers in the NHS to vote with their feet,” she added.

“The ever present, constant reorganisation of the NHS – the latest manifestation being the 44 STPs in England – is having a crushing effect on NHS morale, as well as being perceived as a fancy name for further cuts to services to the detriment of patient care.”

Kevin Brandstatter, GMB national officer for public services, argued it was no surprise that workers were leaving their posts “in their droves”. 

“Along with other public sector workers, they are forced to put in £11bn of unpaid work every year to prop up our ailing public services,” he said. “Our NHS members love the work they do saving lives – but the bottom line is they have to put food on the table and buy clothes for their children. Until the government ends this cruel and unnecessary pay cap – the trend will continue.”

The GMB lead also claimed that austerity was a political choice that will ultimately “lead to higher and higher staff shortages, with fewer and fewer staff to care for sick patients”.

“Patients are almost bound to die as a result,” he said. “The fault for this will lie with the government.”

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