Healthcare workers announces five more days of action as they prepare to join picket line outside Teesside hospitals

Teesside healthcare assistants outside  James Cook University Hospital
Teesside healthcare assistants outside James Cook University Hospital -Credit:UGC

Healthcare assistants from North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust and South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust are set to strike again over wage rates and back pay.

UNISON says the upcoming action is scheduled to start at 8am on Monday, May 20, and will last for five days until Saturday morning. This follows a 24-hour strike in March and a 72-hour stoppage in April, where hundreds of staff walked out across seven sites at the two trusts.

Staff have been campaigning to move to a wage band in the NHS Agenda for Change pay scale that they claim more accurately reflects the work they've been doing and secure a fair back pay settlement. Despite attempts to negotiate a resolution, the employers have so far refused - leaving some of the lowest paid workers in the NHS with no choice but to continue their action, claims the union.

According to NHS guidance, healthcare assistants on salary band 2 should only be providing personal care, such as bathing and feeding patients. However, UNISON says most of the healthcare assistants have routinely undertaken clinical tasks normally done by those on band 3, such as taking blood, performing electrocardiogram tests and inserting cannulas.

UNISON Northern regional secretary Clare Williams said: “Once again staff are being been forced into this unavoidable strike action because the trust won’t negotiate, this time for five days.

"Put simply, hundreds of low-paid workers across Teesside, mainly women, are being denied money they’re owed. The trusts have saved a fortune through their failure to reward workers properly and their goodwill has worn thin. Staff feel hurt that their employers have little interest settling this dispute.

“The healthcare assistants are not backing down and they’re determined to get what they deserve. Both trusts need to do what's right to avoid permanent damage to the relationship with their workforce.”

A spokesperson for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust and South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: "The role healthcare assistants play on our wards and in the community is much valued by our colleagues and patients.

“We have worked closely with trade union colleagues to move our healthcare assistants to the higher grades where applicable in line with the national profile and have committed to back pay dating back to July 2021. Patients are asked to attend any appointments as usual, unless we contact them to reschedule.

“Urgent and emergency care will be prioritised to ensure those in life-threatening emergencies can receive the best possible care. People can help us to keep A&E free to treat the most serious conditions by accessing help from NHS 111 online for non-life-threatening medical issues.”