Legal Battle Begins as Healthcare Workers Challenge NHS Bonus for COVID

credit: theguardian

London (Parliament Politic Magazine) – The government’s exclusion of certain healthcare workers from a one-time bonus may lead to a potential judicial review. This bonus was a component of the pay agreement for over a million NHS employees in England this year and was intended to acknowledge the strain that the COVID pandemic imposed on the healthcare workforce.

However, thousands of contracted staff, including community nurses and physiotherapists, are being denied this bonus, a decision that has been widely criticized as unjust. The government has stated that it is currently reviewing its position on this matter. One physiotherapist, who serves in various healthcare settings in Surrey, expressed feeling completely demoralised when informed that she would not be eligible for this payment.

Ms. Tollit Gives Her Views

Ms. Tollit is one of the workers who were deemed ineligible for payments ranging from £1,655 to £3,789 because they are not employed directly by the NHS. Instead, they are employed by not-for-profit organizations, including social enterprises, which collectively deliver approximately one-third of the NHS’s community health services. According to the Department of Health and Social Care, there are an estimated 20,000 healthcare personnel working within these services in England. According to Ms. Tollit:

“Our team worked throughout the pandemic, we worked incredibly hard, we were treating patients in the community trying to keep them out of hospital to help prevent more admissions for those hospitals which were overwhelmed. We worked tirelessly’’.

According to the Department of Health and Social Care, it is estimated that around 20,000 healthcare staff are employed in these services in England. Social Enterprise UK, an industry organization representing over 10,000 of these workers, informed the BBC that they have initiated the process of seeking a judicial review. They assert that the existing arrangement is “wholly inequitable.”

Slap in the Face

Peter Holbrook, the Chief Executive, emphasized that social enterprises play a vital role within the NHS ecosystem. They employ thousands of staff and channel their profits back into communities. A significant portion of the healthcare workers represented by Mr. Holbrook, including Ms. Tollit, were originally employed by the NHS before being transitioned to independent service providers as part of the outsourcing of certain services. Importantly, Ms. Tollit and others in this situation have employment terms and conditions that are equivalent to those who perform the same roles directly within the NHS. She continues:

“I am employed by Central Surrey Health to work for the NHS – all my patients are NHS and consider me NHS,” she said. “Apparently, my work doesn’t count. Frankly it’s a slap in the face.” The government revealed a 5% pay increase for over a million NHS employees in England earlier this year. It was stated during the negotiations that outsourced staff would not be entitled to the additional bonus.

 A government spokesperson emphasized their immense appreciation for the efforts of all healthcare staff. Additionally, the government is currently reviewing its stance regarding payments to non-NHS staff.

Read More: The Unseen Healthcare Strain of Long COVID: Over 2 Million Affected in UK

NHS pay: Health staff begin legal fight over COVID bonus

Certain “bank” staff, who are health workers at different organizations and classified as “non-statutory,” have also been excluded from receiving these lump sum payments. This includes individuals employed in nursing homes and GP services.

It’s worth mentioning that distinct pay agreements were negotiated for healthcare staff working in the NHS in Wales and Scotland. Healthcare workers employed by independent organizations are pursuing legal action against the UK government for being excluded from a one-time bonus. This bonus was a component of the pay agreement for NHS staff in England, intended to acknowledge their contributions during the pandemic.

Nevertheless, thousands of outsourced staff, including community nurses and physiotherapists, have been denied this bonus. Social Enterprise UK, representing a substantial number of these workers, deems this decision unfair and is seeking a judicial review. The government has indicated that it is currently reviewing its stance on the matter.

In the meantime, a memorial has been erected in a city to honor those who lost their lives during the coronavirus pandemic. This commemorative bench in Winchester has been established with the intention of providing a tranquil space for individuals who have experienced the loss of a loved one to sit and contemplate. The funding for this bench came from Winchester Bereavement Support, and it is located within Abbey Gardens.

Beth Malcolm

Beth Malcolm is Scottish based Journalist at Heriot-Watt University studying French and British Sign Language. She is originally from the north west of England but is living in Edinburgh to complete her studies.