Progress in pay dispute involving healthcare assistants at Wigan's hospitals

Healthcare assistants at Wigan's hospitals trust have taken a significant step towards resolving a long-running pay dispute.

Monday, 2nd August 2021, 4:22 pm
Updated Tuesday, 3rd August 2021, 9:16 am

Unison says thousands of hospital workers at three trusts in the region are working to contracts that mean they should provide personal care such as bathing, feeding and toileting patients, which should be paid at NHS Agenda for Change band two level.

However, they are often expected to perform clinical duties including taking and monitoring bloods, carrying out electrocardiogram (ECG) tests, venepuncture, escorting patients unaccompanied, complex dressings, cannulation and recording patient observations, which should be paid at band three level.

Following a campaign, Unison members working as healthcare assistants (HCAs) at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (WWL), Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust and Stockport NHS Foundation Trust voted to accept a framework agreement to resolve the issue, with 99 per cent voting to accept.

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Wigan Infirmary

The agreement will mean that HCAs who have been historically underpaid should receive back-pay from April 2018, as well as providing them with an opportunity to be placed in a higher paid role.

Alison Balson, WWL's director of workforce, said: “This is really good news for the affected healthcare assistants, the trust and Unison. We are now taking the necessary steps to implement these changes.

“Healthcare assistants are incredibly important to our trust, which is why it’s been so important to work together in partnership to get to this outcome.”

A joint statement from the NHS trusts and Unison North West said: “Unison and trust management are pleased to confirm that a framework has now been agreed and accepted to address the issue of HCAs who are working at a higher level but who may be currently being paid at the wrong grade, to ensure HCA staff are appropriately banded. HCAs who can demonstrate they have been working at band three level but are currently being paid at band two, will be regraded with back-pay in accordance with the agreed framework and with their service recognised.”

A Unison member working as a healthcare assistant for WWL said: “All of us HCAs are very compassionate about what we do, we all love our job and we value our patients very much. This proposal is a good start, it is all about acknowledging us as HCAs and the skills we use.”

Another said: “I feel happy that our services that we provide day in, day out are finally being recognised. We come in to work day after day and go above and beyond our job roles - putting the patients first is our number one priority.”

James Bull, Unison North West head of health, said: “HCAs, who have been on the front-line of the coronavirus pandemic, have campaigned hard for the recognition they deserve and are entitled to. By combining their voices through their union, they have now been listened to.

“HCAs who have worked tirelessly to deliver outstanding care in the most challenging of circumstances will no longer be out of pocket whilst delivering vital clinical care.

“We would like to thank the three trusts involved for their constructive approach to resolving this issue over the past three months. The agreement shows that pay justice for some of the lowest paid staff in the nursing team is possible.

“Other NHS trusts in Greater Manchester who have turned a blind eye to staff being expected to work at a higher level than they are being paid for must now take note and follow suit. We call on all North West NHS trusts to hold meaningful discussions with Unison representatives about how we can look to implement this framework to resolve this problem elsewhere.”

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