Rob Davies

Squeezing our public service professionals

Public sector pay restraint since 2010 has left five million workers struggling. Many public sector staff now earn£2,000–3,000 less in real terms than in 2010. What does that mean for our frontline services?

The pro:

Rob Davies, senior physiotherapist based in an NHS Trust hospital in Plymouth and rep for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP).

The job:

  • Working within a team of 14, standing in as team lead when needed.
  • Assessing patients’ mobility and making a plan for their physiotherapy needs.
  • Daily meetings with doctors and occupational therapists to discuss individual patients.

The motivation:

“About 10 years ago I was working in sports retail when I got a Christmas card from my great aunt. I hadn’t seen her since she’d had a stroke that had affected her badly, including her ability to write, so I was amazed to read her handwriting. Physiotherapy had helped her, and this spurred me on to go to university – I wanted to help more people like my great aunt.”

The pressures:

“I enjoy my job but it’s stressful,” says Rob. Wards designed for overflow during busier periods have been full almost constantly, he says, and the Trust must meet targets for assigning patients a bed or discharging them within four hours, or face fines. Daily pressures to keep up mean ambulance crews sometimes arrive at short notice to take patients home, he explains, “leaving us rushing around to sort out appropriate equipment instead of treating patients… We’re doing more reactive than proactive work at the moment and the danger is that patients go home without the things they need to keep safe and well.”In addition, the lack of pay increase alongside rising costs means thatin effect Rob has had a pay reduction in the last few years. Several of his colleagues have gone into private healthcare so they can earn more.

The impact:

Morale is low at Rob’s workplace. High staff turnover has affected team spirit and means that Rob spends a lot of time inducting new staff. And employees feel undervalued, he says: “As healthcare professionals we have a direct impact on people’s lives. It’s not fair that we’re paid less.”

The solution:

All NHS workers – not only doctors and nurses – need a fair wage, says Rob.“We make a difference to people’s lives and our pay and conditions need to reflect this. Recognition results in better morale. It’s not rocket science.”

It’s about more than salaries, though. “Extra funding is put into more beds and enhanced surgeries, but not into resources for rehabilitation. Yet if we can do our job more effectively, this would also cut costs. For instance, most wards don’t have gym equipment, but if they did we could do rehabilitation every day,which would get patients home more quickly.”