Thousands of NHS workers may quit for better-paid jobs, ministers … – The Guardian

Exclusive: Health leaders call for uplift for lowest-paid staff to prevent ‘mass exodus’, as dental services also face workforce crisis
The NHS faces a “mass exodus” of thousands of staff to better-paid jobs in pubs, shops and supermarkets as a result of the cost of living crisis, ministers have been warned.
Health leaders fear significant numbers of lower-paid workers will leave for higher wages in the private sector amid rising food and heating bills and soaring inflation. The NHS already has 110,000 vacancies, and there are fears that a further deepening of the workforce crisis will “jeopardise” the ability of hospitals to tackle record-high waiting lists.
Ministers are being urged to give NHS staff on the lowest full-time pay a higher wage rise than last year to help them mitigate against the worst effects of rising living costs. Failure to boost pay for those being paid just 15p above the national minimum wage will also undermine efforts to recruit new staff, health leaders say.
“Committing to giving more money to the NHS’ lowest paid workers is the right thing to do as inflation spirals and living costs mount,” said Matthew Taylor, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents the whole healthcare system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“Without a pay rise which at least matches what some parts of the private sector are offering, we are at real risk of a mass exodus of healthcare staff on the lowest pay who are quitting the NHS to search out jobs in better-paid sectors including supermarkets, pubs and high street shops.
“Staff leaving the NHS at a time when they are most needed will also jeopardise the gains the health service is making in clearing the waiting list backlog,” Taylor said.
MPs on the health select committee are to examine the NHS workforce crisis at a meeting on Tuesday.
Some NHS trusts are already setting up their own food banks for staff, and offering hot meals for £1 and hardship funds. But health leaders say this does not go far enough and are calling on ministers to pay the lowest-paid healthcare workers more, including porters, medical secretaries, security guards and healthcare assistants.
NHS leaders want to see the government commit to a 4% pay rise for NHS staff on NHS band 2 contracts instead of the 3% increase expected to be announced and confirmed as early as next month.
About 60,000 staff are on the lowest NHS pay point, making £18,870 a year. A targeted 4% pay rise for them would mean they take home about £500 a year extra after tax.
Dental services are also facing a workforce crisis.
Ahead of Tuesday’s health select committee hearing, the British Dental Association (BDA) warned that thousands of high street dentists in England were “severing ties” with the NHS, which could leave millions of patients “with no options”.
The BDA said that since March 2020, about 3,000 dentists had moved away from NHS work entirely. Most dentists provide a mixture of NHS and private dental care, but the figures suggest the balance could shift in favour of more private provision.
Shawn Charlwood, the chair of the BDA’s general dental practice committee, said: “Overstretched and underfunded, thousands of dentists have already left the NHS, but many more have begun severing their ties.”


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