Health workers reveal ‘hand to mouth’ existence as union warns NHS workforce in ‘desperate situation’

Health workers have told of living “hand to mouth” and skipping meals amid a union warning that the NHS workforce is in “crisis”.

Unison said the consequence of staff quitting will be “longer ambulance queues outside hospitals, ever-increasing waiting lists and people who are in desperate need of treatment getting sicker”.

Some of its members have written to Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid calling on him to take urgent action to stop more “dedicated, hardworking but exhausted staff” leaving the health service this year.

More than 35,000 health staff and members of the public have signed an online version of the letter appealing for health workers to be paid fairly , both for the job they do and for every hour they work.

NHS staff posed outside Unison’s headquarters in London on Wednesday with a giant envelope addressed to Sajid Javid featuring a special “put NHS pay right” stamp .

Comments to Unison from NHS staff included:

  • “I’m living in fear of the next bill, or rise in food and petrol. My family is living hand to mouth. My heart sank when the council tax bill came yesterday. I’ve worked for the NHS for 30 years and never felt poorer.”
  • “I’m having to skip lunch and only have two meals a day. Electricity bills have risen so much I put extra layers on, and it’s only going to get worse.”
  • “I’m having to work extra shifts just to cover my bills. I’m in debt to my energy provider from using electric storage heaters over winter.”
  • “As a community nurse, I’ve recently had mileage capped. The cost of fuel has dramatically increased and many of us are struggling to pay the price increase. It’s costing us to come to work and many nurses will unfortunately have to leave the profession.”

The letter says: “We are asking you to put NHS pay right. What every NHS employee needs – from nurses and paramedics to porters and healthcare assistants – is a decent wage rise and genuine measures to convince them to stay.

“Staff are vital to achieving a fully functioning post-pandemic NHS. Without investment in the workforce, patients will end up paying the price.”

Unison’s head of health Sara Gorton (pictured) said: “This is a desperate situation with NHS staff already quitting in their droves. The Government can no longer put its head in the sand over this crisis.

“It’s patients who will suffer when there are too few staff to provide proper care. Ministers must ensure workers are encouraged to stay with an above-inflation wage rise and an end to poverty pay.”

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