AROUND 35000 NHS staff are to balloted for strike action as union leaders told ministers that they are being taken for granted.

Unison, Scotland’s largest health union, has insisted that a 5% pay rise being offered is not good enough with inflation nearing 10%.

Those being balloted include nurses, cleaners, NHS24 staff and ambulance crews.

It comes amidst a growing backlash over pay from public sector workers after ministers agreed a "breakthrough" up to 10% deal in a separate ScotRail dispute with train drivers union Aslef which could end a row which led to emergency timetable cuts of to up to half of daily services since the middle of May.

Unison now says that in the first steps towards taking industrial action a ballot will take place of NHS staff across Scotland to recommend they reject the Scottish government’s pay offer and vote to take strike action in the coming months.

The NHS consultative digital ballot opens today (Monday) and closes on August 8.

Unison say that members are "angry and feel they are being taken for granted".

They union says the pay offer is "deeply unfair" as it will give those at top of the pay bands a pay rise of over £5,000 per year whilst those on the lower pay bands will get nearer £1000 per year.

They say the ballot is launched in the midst of a staffing crisis in the NHS, with worker turnover "higher than ever" waiting lists at an "all time high" and the NHS facing "real challenges to recruit" with over 6000 nurse vacancies across Scotland.

Unison say that staff regularly report that they are regularly left in wards working with staffing levels below minimum standards.

They also report they are constantly worried they make mistakes, or fail to deliver basic patient care.

The union says the problems were building long before Covid, and that the pandemic has only "exacerbated the issues".

Thousands of Scots NHS staff including nurses today balloted on strike action

Wilma Brown, chair of the UNISON Scotland health committee said: “NHS staff have been taken for granted, staff have endured over 10 years of real terms pay cuts only to be told by the Scottish Government that, yet again, they will have to accept a below inflation pay rise.

“NHS staff have family bills to pay, food, energy and petrol prices are rocketing. NHS staff are struggling to afford the price of fuel to get them to work. They need more than praise and platitudes from Government, they need a decent pay rise to support their families.

“A 5% pay increase across the board just doesn’t cut it and the Scottish Government need to understand how angry we are. Unison are urging members to vote to reject this pay offer and indicate that they will take the very difficult decision to take industrial action, unless of course the Health Minister improves the offer on the table.”

Scottish health secretary Humza Yousaf has previously said the proposed wages hike – which could amount to £2,400 a year for some frontline employees – was a “demonstration of how much we value our NHS staff who have worked tirelessly to keep us safe during the course of the pandemic”.

The deal, which would apply to nurses, paramedics, allied health professionals and healthcare support staff, is the largest pay rise ever to be offered to NHS workers since devolution.

The proposed 5% rise is the second year in a row the Scottish Government has made a record pay offer to NHS staff – after a 4% increase last year.

The pay rise would be backdated to April 1 2022, with the Government stating that staff could receive an additional £1,000 to £2,400 a year in their pay packets, depending on their role and experience.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are disappointed that Unison is recommending members reject this offer which, if accepted, will be the biggest single year pay rise NHS Agenda for Staff have seen since devolution, and will ensure that our staff continue to remain the best paid in the UK.   

“Under this pay offer experienced porters will receive more than £1,000 extra, while a healthcare support worker will see more than £1,200 extra. Experienced nurses will see their pay rise by more than £1,600 and an experienced advanced nurse practitioner will receive almost £2,400 more.

“The record 5% pay offer builds on NHS Scotland staff being the best paid in the four nations. The UK Government would need to deliver pay uplifts of between 6% to 14% to front line NHS England Agenda for Change staff to catch up with pay levels in Scotland.”