Editorial

Want weekend working Mr Hunt? Then pay for it

I loved the #ImInWorkJeremy Twitter response to the health secretary’s ultimatum last week over moving to a seven-day NHS by 2020. Health staff posted selfies of themselves at work over the weekend to make the point that for many front line NHS professionals, weekend working is already the norm.

I loved the #ImInWorkJeremy Twitter response to the health secretary’s ultimatum last week over moving to a seven-day NHS by 2020. Health staff posted selfies of themselves at work over the weekend to make the point that for many front line NHS professionals, weekend working is already the norm.

True, we do not have a full, seamless seven-day service, but that is not the fault of doctors and nurses. Yet Mr Hunt seems to have declared war on them. Medics bore the brunt of his wrath in last week’s King’s Fund speech, where he set out his ‘25-year vision’ for the NHS and read the riot act to doctors, telling them he wouldn’t allow them to block his plans.

Adequate unsocial hours payments are part of the rate for the job nurses do

He’s got it in for nurses too and the newly published Pay Review Body report on funding a seven-day health service makes it clear that unless the government comes up with extra cash, reducing unsocial hours payments is the only way it’s going to happen.

Mr Hunt is inviting trade unions to enter formal talks with NHS Employers to agree ‘a balanced package of affordable proposals’ – in other words accept a pay cut – in addition to the real-terms cut they have already endured.

This is even more galling coinciding as it does with the announcement that MPs will receive a 10% pay rise – back-dated to May. The prime minister described the £7,000 rise, taking an MP’s salary from £67,000 to £74,000 a year, as ‘the rate for the job’.

So what’s the rate for the job of a nurse working a weekend shift, or a bank holiday, or nights, caring for people at their most vulnerable and making life or death decisions? Surely not less than the hardly generous sum they are paid at the moment?

If we want a seven-day NHS then we need skilled staff, in sufficient numbers, to provide it. The government needs to grasp that adequate unsocial hours payments are part of ‘the rate for the job’.

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