Fast, comprehensive and accessible testing, and the ongoing, ample supply of protective kit are among measures that must be in place for the NHS to be opened up safely as the UK begins to ease the lockdown, say health unions today.

BOS TU, alongside 15 other health unions, have drawn up a nine-point blueprint, which also calls for salaried staff to be paid properly for every hour worked.

The unions want to ensure that – as out-patient clinics and operations resume – the NHS continues to operate a safety-first approach.

The unions represent more than a million staff working in the NHS across the UK – including dentists, porters, nurses, radiographers, physiotherapists, midwives, 999-call handlers, cleaners, healthcare assistants and paramedics.

They all want to avoid a repeat of the personal protective equipment (PPE) supply problems experienced earlier in the pandemic. These shortages sapped staff confidence, causing widespread and unnecessary anxiety, say unions.

Access to readily available PPE is especially important as employers in other parts of the economy begin to open up their workplaces and source protective kit for staff, say unions.

The blueprint also suggests that, over the next few months, trust managers deploy many of the 40,000 staff who’ve returned to the NHS to relieve areas experiencing staffing shortages. Their presence could allow overworked staff some much-needed time off, say unions.

While the priority remains saving lives, and keeping health workers and patients safe, unions are calling on the government to ensure staff working through the pandemic get proper overtime and are paid for every hour they’re at work.

Unions want NHS employers to work with them so that the high value the public has placed on staff is reflected in pay talks, due to take place later this year. There can be no return to pay freezes and austerity, say the unions.

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