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Dave Dodd and Karen Owens attended Unison’s health conference on behalf of PiU this year.

Covid restrictions meant that it was impossible for a “face to face “event so video conferencing was used to good effect.

The conference kicked off with a minute’s silence for all colleagues who have passed in the last 18 months due to Covid and other reasons.

The first part of the conference focused on the covid response and how we will begin to recover from the last 18 months or so. There was support for the following motions and members spoke about how the Pandemic experiences cannot be the new ‘normal’ for health workers. We then heard form members about the PPE Failures during the pandemic the impact on Long Covid Support and Accessing reasonable adjustments during Covid-19 including a motion on home working as a reasonable adjustment in post Covid health workplaces.

After lunch on the first day, we had an impassioned speech by Christina McAnea who is the new UNISONs general secretary. Christina took over form Dave Prentis but is not new to conference as for many years she was the head of health.


The afternoon session focused on members wellbeing and motions were supported on LGBT+ workers health and wellbeing as well as  general UNISON support for NHS staff health and wellbeing. We then turned to staffing levels and how we could encourage employers to utilise the new flexible working directives to secure work-life balance, managing workload, and restoring staffing levels.

Staffing levels remains an issue and we heard from many members who are aware of staff who are burnt out or disillusioned with healthcare. The following motions were adopted, Stuck in the vicious circle – staffing levels, career development and flexibility. There were other motions that related to this issue which included Safe Staffing – essential for patient and staff safety, workload, stress, and burnout in the NHS

The first day rounded off by a motion relating to diagnostic imaging networks and the Allied Health Professions workforce and how the government would like to privatise this service. We voted for UNISON to oppose this move with all means necessary.

On the second day the focus turned to the NHS Pay award and we had a presentation on the result of the consultative ballot which resulted in 80% of members responding would support action up to and including strike action regarding pay. There was a 28% turnout with 65k voting against the pay deal, therefore UNISONs Health service group executive (HSGE) voted to opposes the pay deal. The next steps set out by the HSGE are:

  • Survey all non-members who did not take part in the consultative ballot to find out the reasons why
  • Talk to local branches around capacity to roll out Indicative and potential formal ballots
  • Roll out Indicative Ballot
  • Move to Formal ballot if the turnout is 45% plus

The following motions were discussed and supported:

  • Protecting members from the impact of the pandemic through defending and improving pay, terms, and conditions
  • A pay strategy for the whole NHS team Support
  • The NHS should be a real living wage employer Support
  • Protecting members from the impact of the pandemic through defending and improving pay, terms, and conditions

The next motion debated was the issue surrounding hybrid or working from home. Working at home has costs – we debated how employers should pay expenses as the cost of working from home is only increasing. The last part of the pay debate included motions on the Post Covid – job evaluation improvements for Bands 2-4

The last section of the conference discussed the importance of proper support for our newly qualified nurses and midwives. The need for Unsocial hours changes in the Ambulance Service and the need to Support Bank workers beyond Covid-19 was debated and supported

We finished off the morning of the second day of conference by talking about the need for insourcing of NHS services and the end the privatisation of Patient Transport Services and bring them back to ambulance trusts. This is a hot topic for all of us who work in “provider services” and one most if not all would support.

The final session was made up of motions that tackled inequalities, a discussion about black workers in the NHS and how disciplinary procedures are used disproportionately on occasions. To end the conference there was a motion on developing transgender and non-binary inclusive policies.

Roll on Health conference in April 2022 taking place in Liverpool where hopefully we can be they’re in person rather than virtually.

The decisions and agreed actions that UNISON’s Health Service Group Executive Committee will be taking forward are available online now.
Read the decisions