Hundreds of healthcare assistants at North Tees Hospital and Hartlepool Hospital are refusing to rule out strike action as they step up their fight for fair pay, says UNISON today (Thursday).
The staff, employed by North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, say they have been underpaid for their work.
According to NHS guidance, healthcare assistants on salary band 2 should only be providing personal care such as bathing and feeding patients.
However, most of the support staff at the two hospitals are routinely undertaking clinical tasks, such as taking and monitoring blood, performing electrocardiogram tests and inserting cannulas, says UNISON.
The guidance says staff performing these more complex duties should be on salary band 3, which is nearly £2,000 a year more.
UNISON is calling for the health workers to be moved to the higher grade and to receive up to four years’ back pay, depending on how long they have worked there.
Earlier this month, staff overwhelmingly rejected (89%) an offer from the trust that provided no regrading and only two years of back pay.
In the same consultation exercise, a similar number of healthcare assistants (91%) said they were prepared to take strike action to secure a fair deal.
Other trusts around the UK are moving healthcare assistants up to the correct salary band and providing appropriate back pay. For example, seven health trusts in Greater Manchester have recently regraded their health support staff and backdated their pay to April 2018.
UNISON Northern head of health Ian Fleming said: “It is time for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust to follow others’ lead and paid their healthcare assistants fairly.
“Staff are not prepared to have their hard work undervalued in this way and have made it clear that they will go on strike if the trust continues to refuse to pay them properly.
“Managers must do the right thing, solve the dispute and avoid needless disruption for patients.”
– Band 2 clinical support workers should only undertake personal care duties, according to NHS guidance.
– So far UNISON has won £37m for healthcare assistants and other support workers through its Pay Fair for Patient Care campaign. More information on the campaign is available here.
– The seven Greater Manchester trusts that have resolved the issue are: the Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust; Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust; Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust; Stockport NHS Foundation Trust; Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust; the Christie NHS Foundation Trust; and Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.