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Leading figure in NHS pay negotiations takes on new senior role at Unison

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Unison head of health Christina McAnea, who has led key negotiations on NHS pay and strikes for the past few years, has left the post after being promoted to the role of assistant general secretary.

Ms McAnea, who had held the health position for over six years, will now oversee bargaining and negotiations across all sectors of the union, including local government, education and health.

During her time as head of health, she led the 2014-15 strikes over NHS pay for nurses and other staff on the Agenda for Change system, which involved multiple unions. She also negotiated directly with the health secretary to help resolve the dispute.

She has been replaced in her former role by Unison’s deputy head of health, Sara Gorton, who also takes over from Ms McAnea as joint chair of the NHS Staff Council, the body that negotiates pay deals for Agenda for Change staff and which also submits union evidence annually to the NHS Pay Review Body.

Ms Gorton, who has worked for Unison since 2002, was in her most recent post responsible for delivering negotiations, campaigns and representation on a range of national NHS policy and workforce issues.

She specialises in NHS pay, terms and conditions and has been a member of the NHS Staff Council since it was set up in 2004.

sara gorton unison

sara gorton unison

Sara Gorton

Commenting on the progress made during her time as Unison’s head of health, Ms McAnea said raising awareness of the impact of austerity on NHS nurses was made a key issue during the election.

She acknowledged that there was still work to be done to ensure the government’s pay cap on all public sector workers was lifted.

“We worked hard to get recognition of the importance of the whole team in the NHS,” she said. “This was to ensure the value of doctors, nurses, allied health professions as well as admin and support staff is recognised.

“We still need to break the public sector pay cap. We still have a way to go to get fair funding, recognition and respect for all public sector workers including NHS staff,” Ms Mcanea told Nursing Times.

“A re-think on funding and pay is essential. Pay restraint must be lifted and structural change must not be driven by cost”

Sara Gorton

Meanwhile, Ms Gorton told Nursing Times that she hoped to play an important role holding the government to account for its running of the NHS, and that workload and stress in the NHS needed to be looked at again.

“A re-think on funding and pay is essential,” she said. “Pay restraint must be lifted and structural change must not be driven by cost.

“Securing the right to stay for EU nationals is also a key concern along with security for staff moving across organisational boundaries,” she added.

Ms Gorton also noted that staff morale had been affected by the daily experience of working in the NHS, which had “fallen short of expectation”.

“We need to take a fresh look at workload and stress, and more must be done to understand the causes of persistently high numbers of staff experiencing violence at work,” she said.

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