THE WELSH GOVERNMENT will fund a bonus payment for NHS and social care staff to recognise their extraordinary contribution during the covid-19 pandemic, the Health Minister announced on Wednesday (March 17).

The one-off payment for NHS and social care staff is equivalent to £735 per person, to cover the basic rate of tax and national insurance contributions incurred. After deductions, most people will receive £500.

It is estimated the payment will benefit 221,945 people in Wales including 103,600 social care staff, 90,000 NHS Wales staff, 2,345 deployed students and 26,000 primary care staff (including pharmacy, GP, dental and optometry staff).

The Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething, said: “Over the last year, Wales’ NHS staff and social care staff have shown a remarkable amount of commitment and courage from the initial outbreak of the pandemic right through to the current second wave. 

“They will have suffered the impacts of the pandemic on their physical and mental health wellbeing in both their personal and professional lives.

“This payment expresses our gratitude to our NHS and social care workforce for their extraordinary contribution in keeping Wales safe.”

The Welsh Government is working with local authorities and with trade unions to finalise details of the scheme.

The bonus is further to the £500 special payment for care home and domiciliary care workers announced in May 2020 to recognise their work through the first wave of the pandemic. It will be made to a wider group of social care workers including local authority social services staff.

Mike Payne, GMB Senior Organiser said:  “This is excellent news, and the least our magnificent Health and Social care workers deserve. 

“Their care and commitment over the last 12 months fighting COVID has been exemplary, shouldering the risk without a second’s hesitation and facing up to challenges that could possibly affect them and their families for many years in the future.  

“The only human response to that is to reward that upstanding sense of duty and it’s clear that this Welsh Labour government has put its money where its mouth is. 

“They’ve shown Health & Social care staff that they’re valued, which is something that the Tories in Westminster could learn from.”

Jackie Jones, Senedd Candidate for Preseli Pembrokeshire, said: “NHS and social care staff have worked incredibly hard to keep us safe in particular this past year, as they do every year. I welcome this payment. I wish it was not subject to UK government tax though. The NHS and social care staff also deserved a higher pay rise.”

UNISON wrote to the minister in January, on behalf of all health unions, calling on the Welsh government to provide a bonus, over and above any NHS pay award, in recognition for the efforts of these staff during the pandemic.

The bonus payment of is in addition to any NHS pay award.

Additionally, the minister has committed to paying at least the real living wage of £9.50 throughout NHS Wales and has informed the pay review body (PRB) that the Welsh government does not wish to place a cap on any NHS pay award. 

The Westminster government has recommended a 1 per cent cap to the PRB.

NHS pay in Wales is a devolved issue but Welsh Government could only afford to provide a decent wage rise if it receives additional funding from Westminster. 

A substantial NHS England pay rise would provide that equivalent money in the devolved budget to Wales.

Paul Summers, UNISON Cymru Wales lead officer for health, said: “UNISON led the drive for a Covid bonus for health and social care employees and we are very pleased the Welsh government has recognised these workers have given absolutely everything to help keep families safe during the pandemic.

“This is a really timely boost for worn-out low-paid NHS and care staff.

“The Welsh government’s actions are in stark contrast to the insulting approach of the Conservative UK government to NHS and care staff and we thank the health and social services minister for working with UNISON and the other trade unions.

“But this is only the start and we will continue to argue for all NHS Agenda for Change staff to receive a minimum £2,000 pay rise as part of the UNISON #OneTeam2k campaign.”