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Radiographers at Royal Free and Whittington hospitals strike for first time since 1980s

PUBLISHED: 11:06 20 October 2014 | UPDATED: 18:32 22 October 2014

The Society of Radiographers official picket outside the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead. Picture: Polly Hancock

The Society of Radiographers official picket outside the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead. Picture: Polly Hancock

Polly Hancock

Radiographers from the Royal Free and Whittington hospitals took to the picket line for the first time in a generation as frustration over NHS pay freezes reached breaking point.

Radiographers on strike at the Whittington Hospital. Picture: Polly HancockRadiographers on strike at the Whittington Hospital. Picture: Polly Hancock

Placards declaring “No Raise, No Rays” were proudly waved as radiographers took industrial action for the first time since the early 1980s today.

The x-ray and imaging services they provide are vital to the work of a hospital and cancer treatment centres were affected during the four-hour walkout from 9am to 1pm.

But emergency and urgent care at the hospitals continued as the Society for Radiographers, which called the industrial action, ensured some staff continued to work so patient safety was not at risk.

Its members will continue to work to rule for the rest of the week in protest over the government’s refusal to accept a one per cent pay rise for NHS staff as recommended by the independent Pay Review Body.

Whittington Hospital radiographer Tanya Richards said 'It feels like the government is trying to fund the NHS with our wages'. Picture: Polly HancockWhittington Hospital radiographer Tanya Richards said 'It feels like the government is trying to fund the NHS with our wages'. Picture: Polly Hancock

Local radiographers said a demoralising spiral of reduced pay, the rising cost of living and increased working hours had contributed to their decision to join the picket line.

Tanya Richards, a radiographer at the Whittington for 11 years, who lives in Holloway, said: “We feel that after five years of pay freezes, enough is enough.

“It’s the equivalent of about £2,000 per person that we’ve missed out on, it’s effectively a pay cut.

“It feels like the government is trying to fund the NHS with our wages.

“It’s not the way to fund it and enough is enough.”

The 33-year-old, who is the industrial relations rep for the Society of Radiographers at the Whittington, said staff have been forced to take weekend shifts at other hospitals and work seven- day weeks to balance the books.

Others simply leave the NHS for positions in the private sector.

“You end up finding that a lot of health care professionals like myself end up leaving London because they can’t afford to live here,” said Miss Richards.

“You end up picking up extra shifts and working more in order to fill that gap.

“I’m from Manchester and I know if I moved back I’d be better off.”

The picture was echoed at the Royal Free Hospital in Pond Street, Hampstead, were morale among the radiography department was described as “very, very low”.
Scott Robinson, 36, a radiographer at the hospital for 15 years and industrial relations rep for the society at the Royal Free, said: “Radiographers are really clambering over themselves to get shifts covering sickness and things like that to get some extra money, even if it’s only a couple of hours here and there.”

He added: “This is the first time in about 30 years that the recommendation of the Pay Review Body has been ignored completely by the government.

“The government is refusing to meet to discuss this with the unions, which is why it’s come to this. A lot of people have found it very difficult to walk out today, but it has just come to a point where we have to take a stand.”

The Pay Review Body makes recommendations on NHS salaries independent of government and the unions.

The Society of Radiographers has warned of further walkouts if the bitter dispute is not resolved.

The strike follows a huge turnout at TUC organised protests in London on Saturday and the first ever industrial action by midwives last week.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “We are disappointed that trade unions are taking industrial action.

“NHS staff are our greatest asset, and we’ve increased the NHS budget to pay for over 12,500 more clinical staff since 2010.

“We cannot afford a pay rise in addition to increments – which disproportionately reward the highest earners – without risking frontline jobs.”

Related links:

- Case study NHS pay dispute: ‘We almost went under, my wife was forced into early retirement to keep us afloat’

- Nurses and midwives at the Royal Free and Whittington strike over pay

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