More than half the public believe an above-inflation pay rise for NHS staff of more than 9% would be a fair increase, new research suggests.
A survey of more than 2,000 adults on behalf of 13 health unions also showed that almost three in five believe health workers would be justified in taking industrial action if the Government pay award in England is below inflation.
The health unions said they believe the results show people want the Prime Minister to commit to a significant wage increase for all healthcare staff including nurses, physiotherapists, radiographers, midwives, cleaners, porters, paramedics, dieticians and administrators as living costs soar.
A majority of respondents said fair wages are crucial in tackling the NHS staffing crisis.
Health unions are waiting for a Government announcement on this year’s pay rise for nurses and other NHS staff, which was due in April.
Unison’s head of health Sara Gorton said: “The prime ministerial merry-go-round and government delays shouldn’t stop a wage rise for staff.
“Health workers struggling to pay bills have been waiting months for the increase they should have received back in the spring.
“The public clearly supports an above-inflation pay rise across the NHS. People say they would also be behind NHS staff should they opt for strike action if a decent increase isn’t forthcoming.
“Ministers must act now rather than stumble into a dispute no-one wants to see.
“The Government must find the money needed or risk worsening the current staffing crisis and lengthening test and treatment waits for patients.”
Chartered Society of Physiotherapy assistant director Elaine Sparkes said: “The NHS has a workforce crisis and it is unthinkable that the Government could be considering making this worse through a pay rise that falls far below inflation.
“That would cause further staff to leave and place ever greater strain on those who remain, while increasing waiting times for patients.
“The Government must step up with an above-inflation pay rise that helps recruit, and most importantly retain, the workforce patients desperately need.”
A Government spokesman said: “The Government wants a fair pay deal for nurses, doctors and the taxpayer, and is carefully considering the recommendations from the independent pay review bodies.
“We are incredibly grateful to all NHS staff and they received a 3% pay rise last year – increasing nurses’ pay by £1,000 on average despite a public sector pay freeze – and we are giving NHS workers another pay rise this year.”