Coronavirus has exposed the conditions facing NHS cleaners

cleaner

Coronavirus (Covid-19) has exposed ongoing issues faced by cleaners in the NHS, with staff cuts and low wages.

This comes as coronavirus patients in hospitals rise, with NHS employees emphasising the importance of proper cleaning.

Staff cuts

According to the NHS’s Estates Returns Information Collection, there are almost a thousand fewer cleaning staff in the NHS in 2019/20 than in 2010/11.

GMB Union called for “urgent investment” in response to the figures.

Rachel Harrison, GMB National Officer, said:

The NHS couldn’t function without its cleaning staff. They have been saving lives, often at real personal risk, since day one of the pandemic.

Read on...

Our members tell us that they are overworked, underpaid, and denied access to the right PPE. Some cleaning workers are put under pressure to complete jobs without enough time or the right equipment.  

She added:

These cuts weakened the NHS and meant that services were vulnerable when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

As we enter a third lockdown, it is more important than ever that NHS cleaners receive the resources, pay, and decent employment standards that they deserve.

Low pay

According to the Office for National Statistics, ‘cleaners and domestics’ earn a median average salary of £17,819 per annum. The median average salary for all full-time employees in 2020 was £31,461.

In a study, researchers found that nearly 40% of NHS trusts contracted out their cleaning services from 2011 to 2014.

When cleaning contracts are outsourced, private companies control cleaners’ wages, often paying them less than they would receive as NHS employees.

Protests against conditions

Cleaners at Lewisham Hospital protested against their employer ISS after it forgot to pay their wages in March 2020.

At the time, a housekeeping worker from the hospital told South London Press:

It has been disgusting the way they treat us.

We are working with coronavirus in the hospital and not getting paid for it.

If we don’t clean the ward it is a state and we have a chance of catching coronavirus here.

Back in 2019, outsourced workers, including cleaners at St Mary’s Hospital, went on strike against pay and conditions. In response to the strikes, they were eventually brought into the NHS, meaning they would receive higher pay, as well as NHS sick leave.

The importance of hospital cleaners

Research has previously concluded that cheaper cleaning provided by private companies is associated with lower quality cleaning and worse healthcare outcomes.

After cleaner Eileen Landers, who worked for University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust (UHDB), died of coronavirus in April, UHDB chief executive Gavin Boyle told the BBC:

The importance of the role Eileen and her colleagues perform simply cannot be overstated.

Featured image via Flickr/Aqua Mechanical

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. Since the Blair years cleaners were cut sacked from the NHS but they do a valuable job yet whots left have a mountain to climb has of their workloads wages a pittance yet we allowed conservative governments to rid the once glorious NHS of them and now we pay a price for allowing it to happen

      1. I supplemented my main job salary quite a few times years ago, and worked as a cleaner in NHS hospitals, as an NHS worker. Received excellent training, think I have a BTec equivalent somewhere. When I saw how ward floors and offices were cleaned some time later, both visiting and as a patient. all they were doing was moving the dirt around! The mop wasn’t wrung properly, water not changed! I think since, the specialism (for that is what it is) has been brought back in house.

    2. CV19 seems also to illustrate The Canary’s role in the information war in Ukania. While I applaud its attitude to the destruction of the fabric of our Welfare State, I was surprised to see an article dating back as far as 23/12/20 that appears to have garnered the interest of one comment. Whereas a more recent article dated 6th January 2021 that had elicited fifteen times the amount of comments, which suggests much more engagement by readers (and subscribers) has been completely removed! Very Stalinesque.
      We all know the Tories have been A**F*cking the NHS for forty years. It appears they have moved on to the rest of us now. I’m not a ‘denyer’ but I’m tired of being ‘fed a line’ especially by people who profess to be speakers of truth not disembling propaganda.

      1. Somewhere along the line I forgot what links the two issues highlighted in my comment. The ONS use the phrase ‘underlying cause’ as a justification of attributing a death as a CV19 death. Reading that phrase and combining it with the facts that many positive CV19 patients were shipped into Care Homes because of bed shortages in the NHS, which then inflated the ‘normal’ mortality rate of many vulnerable people in those Care Homes – especially during April 2020. It could be argued that the underlying cause of those, if not many more, deaths is and was the constant reduction of NHS bed-space since 1978 by the Tories – who were the managers of our social fabric for all but 13 years since that date. Given that Noo Labour has been labelled ‘Tory Lite’ one could add the dead to there list. PS I don’t think the ONS uses the term ‘underlying’ correctly, which may be due to coroner’s and GP’s misuse. WTF knows!?

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.