AGENCY nurses should be entitled to the Scottish Government’s £500 thank-you payments alongside NHS staff, campaigners have argued.
A petition, set up by managers at one nursing agency, say their staff and all other agency workers should be receiving the extra cash too as they have exposed themselves to the same levels of risk, and have helped shore up the NHS and social care sectors during the crisis.
Nicola Sturgeon announced last year that she would be giving out the payments as a thank-you to all NHS and social care staff for the work they have done during the pandemic, as a sign of appreciation.
However, as reported by The , some medics have argued they do not need the extra money, while others working on the front line will not receive a penny as they are not employed by the NHS.
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Alan Mackenzie, chief finance officer and Sakib Rafiq, chief operating officer at Glasgow agency H1 Healthcare have now appealed directly to the Scottish Government to reconsider the scheme to include agency nurses and students.
Mr Mackenzie told The : “ This came about because Sakib and I were discussing the inequity of the proposed bonus and the way in which it will not be distributed fairly and equally through the Scottish nurse, carer and support worker community.
“The First Minister said that ‘those who have worked in our hospitals and care homes, at the sharpest end of the COVID trauma, deserve recognition now.’
“What she did not say was the payment would not extend to certain groups of those workers such as agency staff for example.
“I think at best this was an oversight or maybe ill-conceived, to limit the cost to the public purse. In any case, the decision appears to be flawed and needs to be addressed by the Scottish Government.”
Mr Rafiq added: “This is not about our business, this is about fairness and equity for all those selfless nurses, carers and support workers; in many cases working alongside colleagues doing the same job and taking the same risks.
“They work on the front line looking after the frail, the elderly and those in need but some will get the bonus and some will not. That cannot be fair.”
Since it launched on Tuesday, their petition has gathered more than 35,000 signatures from people who agree that private health workers should be given the bonus as well.
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One signatory said they were supporting the pledge because “care workers have kept going through incredibly difficult times. They are very poorly paid and deserve this bonus – the same as health care workers.”
Another added: “I am an agency nurse and have worked full time in nursing homes and Covid wards for the NHS throughout the pandemic. I have covered shifts last minute and gone to nursing homes with Covid patients when other staff have refused to work there.”
Liberal Democrats Health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said the Scottish Government had made a “real mess” of the bonuses.
He said: “The £500 payment has turned into real mess. The Scottish Government need to work with worker representatives to sort this out and ensure that all staff who helped us through this crisis are properly recognised and rewarded.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said that agency staff will not be getting the thank-you bonus.
She said: “We are hugely grateful to the efforts over recent months of the many key workers in different sectors across Scotland as they have risen to the challenge of responding to the pandemic. This payment is not being extended to private agency staff in the NHS or social care sector.
“For people working for private employers, it would be for their employer to determine their remuneration and any additions to existing pay which may be appropriate for these staff.
“This thank you payment recognises the particular debt we all owe to health and care staff, who have been – and continue to be – on the very front line of this crisis, helping to save lives and to protect us all. It is a straightforward thank you for their hard work and recipients are free to spend it as they wish.”
To view the petition, click here.