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NHS workers are at ‘breaking point’ due to shortages, Unite Scotland warns

NHS workers in Scotland are at “breaking point” due to acute staff shortages, overwork and low pay, a survey by the Unite trade union revealed today.

Of almost 2,200 staff who responded to the survey, 83 per cent had encountered frequent staff shortages, while 79 per cent had regularly or occasionally worked beyond their contracted hours.

The union said its findings should act as a “wake-up call” for the government and health authorities as Scotland’s health workers try to cope with the enormous pressures and challenges of the pandemic.

“The scale of the problem is unsustainable and the workforce is at breaking point,” said Unite Scotland regional officer James O’Connell.

“Urgently addressing these issues must be a priority for the Cabinet Secretary for Health.”

Unite also raised concerns about pay, urging Health Secretary Jeane Freeman to re-open pay negotiations to address the lack of value placed on the work undertaken by NHS Scotland staff.

More than half of the poll’s respondents said they do not feel valued as an NHS worker.

The union said that key workers were being paid “lip service” and that it was worrying that no pay talks had been held despite widespread public praise throughout the pandemic. 

“A key element has to be the re-opening of the NHS pay award from 2018, which expressly allowed for talks to begin if the circumstances changed, “Mr O’Connell said. 

“It’s our hope that what thousands of NHS Scotland workers have told us in this survey should facilitate immediate talks on how we can ensure the NHS Scotland workforce are properly valued, resourced and supported in their day-to-day roles, particularly for all that they have done during this pandemic.”  

Labour’s Monica Lennon has repeatedly urged ministers to begin pay talks.

The government has said it is “hugely grateful” for the hard work of NHS workers during the emergency, that Ms Freeman has regular meetings with unions, and that it was working on a timetable for a new pay deal for next year.

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