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NHS pay campaigners are set to return to Leighton Hospital as Covid restrictions are eased.

Members of Crewe’s Trades Union Council say they will return to the hospital on Thursday (April 1) with a socially distanced campaign to raise awareness “for a real and meaningful pay settlement for all NHS staff”.

Covid-19 has been one of the most challenging times for the UK’s healthcare professionals.

More than 850 NHS workers have lost their lives over the last 12 months.

Many more are facing extended periods of absence with long-Covid and PTSD, placing the NHS under further strain.

Health authorities in the devolved nations have offered NHS workers one-off payments in addition to any negotiated settlement, in Scotland many staff will see an offer of 4%, rising to 5.4% for some of the lowest paid workers.

In England, the Westminster government have claimed that 1% is all it can afford.

An NHS campaigner from Leighton Hospital, part of ‘NHS Workers Say No!’ campaign, said: “The government’s offer is a real-terms pay cut and an insult to the profession.

“The Prime Minister has made dozens of disastrous decisions over the last year and failing to reward the commitment of NHS workers is the latest example of his short-sightedness.

“For the general public there is light at the end of the tunnel as the NHS continues to vaccinate hundreds of thousands of people every day.

“However, there will be no let up for NHS workers as they turn their attention to caring for patients who have missed out on operations and treatments over the last year.

“Dedicated NHS workers will be tackling these heart-breaking waiting lists with one hand tied behind their backs.”

Campaigners say there are currently more than 40,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS and many more across allied roles such as physiotherapists, healthcare assistants and porters.

They blame the problems in recruiting on a “real-terms pay fall by as much as 20% in the last decade”.

A recent YouGov poll indicated that 78% of people would support a 10% rise for NHS workers.

A campaign spokesperson added: “The government continues to ignore the weight of public opinion and professional advice, as they did over free school meals and the return of children to the classroom in January.

“Their unwillingness to listen and offer a meaningful settlement to NHS staff is already a devastating blow for morale.

“It is likely to lead to more staff leaving the profession which will compromise patient safety and jeopardise the long-term viability of our beloved National Health Service.”

Last month when news of the proposed 1% rise emerged, the Government said they would “consider carefully” recommendations made by the NHS Pay Review Body when it reports in the spring.

Crewe & Nantwich Conservative MP Dr Kieran Mullan said: “No final decision has been made on this and I am listening very carefully to what people have to say about this.

“I understand why people feel as they do.

“But I am afraid for the unions to demand 12.5% when we are in the middle of a financial crisis is just not reasonable.

“We also have to keep in mind that there is a good chance a lot of people are going to lose their jobs and pay rises in most of the private sector don’t look likely.

“NHS staff are getting a rise of some sort, when the rest of the public sector is not. So the government has already made an exception.

“But I know many NHS staff have had an incredibly difficult year. I have and will continue to make the case to government for us to go further if we can.

“We will need to see what the independent pay review body says next.

“I would add, my experience talking to staff I volunteered with this year and last year is that, of course they would like more pay, but the thing that would make the biggest difference is tackling short staffing.

“There are almost 10,600 more nurses compared to the previous year. We also have 2,500 fewer nursing and midwifery vacancies than last year.

“A long way to go, staff probably don’t notice the difference yet, but it is progress.”

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