Many NHS and social care workers no longer earning a living wage

One NHS employee told campaign group they were ‘down to one meal a day’, and GMB union criticises ‘shameful’ pay situation while cost of living rises

One NHS employee told campaign group they were ‘down to one meal a day’, and GMB union criticises ‘shameful’ pay situation while cost of living rises

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Healthcare assistants and other low-paid NHS workers are no longer earning a living wage, according to campaigners, with some ‘down to one meal a day’ in the face of soaring living costs.

Last week the Living Wage Foundation increased the real living wage from £9.90 to £10.90 an hour across the UK, and from £11.05 to £11.95 an hour in London – the highest rise on record. Yet healthcare assistants and others working in the NHS and social care on band 1 and band 2 salaries are paid £10.37 an hour, dropping them below the new living wage.

Under the changes, band 3 staff in London are also not earning enough to match the living wage, taking home £11.11 an hour.

Record-breaking rise in Living Wage rate

Real Living Wage rates are the only rates independently calculated based on what people need to live on, according to the Living Wage Foundation, and are paid to almost 400,000 people working for more than 11,000 real Living Wage Employers throughout the UK. It differs from the government’s National Living Wage arrangements.

This year’s 10% rise is the highest in the foundation’s 11-year history, reflecting the challenges of the cost of living crisis.

Poor NHS pay ‘should be a badge of national shame’

GMB, which is balloting nurses and other healthcare members on potential strike action over the government’s pay increase offer of £1,400 (4%) in England and Wales, and 5% in Scotland, said it was shameful that healthcare workers are paid so poorly. Nurses in Northern Ireland are yet to be offered a pay increase.

The union’s national acting secretary Rachel Harrison said: ‘The fact that tens of thousands of NHS workers and care staff aren’t even paid a living wage should be a badge of national shame.

‘What kind of society do we want to live in? Do we want to make sure those who look after us can feed their children and keep a roof over their head? Or do we want to let already wealthy bankers enjoy uncontrolled bonuses in some vague bid to “boost the city”?’

‘It’s a choice of heat or eat now’

An NHS social care assistant told GMB they were ‘down to one meal a day’ so they could cover increases in household bills.

They added: ‘It really is a choice of heat or eat now. How anyone can manage on a pittance of a wage with the ever-increasing costs in living is beyond me.’

Government ‘needs a longer-term plan’ for health and social care pay

Chief executive of NHS Employers Danny Mortimer said the overall national minimum wage set by the government ‘must now reflect rising cost of living pressures’ for NHS and social care staff.

Mr Mortimer also called for a funded national minimum wage for care workers ‘as a matter of urgency’.

‘Given the staffing crisis facing both health and social care, the government needs to support a longer-term plan for reward as part of a desperately needed and long overdue workforce plan for both sectors,’ he added.

Nurses have long been fighting for better pay, with the RCN campaigning for a fully funded increase of 5% above inflation.

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