Over the course of the pandemic the extraordinary work of frontline staff in the NHS has been heroic.

Health and social care workers have been at the heart of the fight against coronavirus, working day and night to protect the NHS and save lives. They do so much to make our health service one to be proud of, and they deserve our respect, admiration and full support.

I took part in the EveryDoctor Parliamentary Briefing regarding NHS pay on Friday 31st July where we discussed the chronic underfunding and understaffing of the NHS and the fact that pay does not reflect the outstanding commitment and care that all NHS staff provide us.

From consultant to cleaner, our NHS staff have served selflessly on the frontline against COVID-19. For every life tragically lost, many more have been saved by the actions of our healthcare staff. They have been undervalued for too long, and I and Scottish Labour are calling for the Scottish Government to commit to pay talks with NHS workers.

In July, a 2.8% pay rise was announced for NHS doctors and dentists in Scotland, set to be backdated to 1 April. It is the same situation in Scotland as it is in England with regards to NHS pay.

The announcement excludes nurses, midwives, hospital porters and other NHS staff. Nurses are not included in the deal because they negotiated a separate three-year package worth 3% per year for 3 years in 2018.  Many other public sector workers – including those working on the frontline in social care – have been left out. The announcement also came on the back of years of public sector pay freezes, and I am concerned that the increases for some workers will not make up for a decade of real-terms pay cuts.

Responding to a parliamentary question in July the Scottish Government said that it had asked NHS Scotland and unions “to work in partnership to examine options for arriving at pay settlements for both the immediate and longer term”.

I firmly believe that valuing our healthcare staff, through fair pay and conditions, is crucial to tackling the NHS workforce crisis. The Scottish Government should get round the table with health unions as soon as possible. I would encourage you to contact your MSP about this matter so that they can raise it directly with the Scottish Government.

I support the “you’ve clapped now pay up” which is about recognising the profession and what needs to be done to permanently recognise the expertise and significant sacrifice for all those who have looked after us during this pandemic.

Scotland must show our NHS staff the same commitment they have shown our country in its hour of need.

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