A leading union is pressing for thousands of health workers employed by private companies, including porters and cleaners, to receive the same pay rise as other NHS staff.

Unison said a wage rise due to be announced soon for the NHS should also be given to workers employed by private contractors, who have performed “tirelessly” throughout the pandemic.

The Government has recommended a 1% pay rise for NHS staff, and the sector’s Pay Review Body is expected to make an announcement within weeks.

The union called on private companies running health service contracts to pledge at least to match any Government pay rise for workers directly employed by the NHS.

The call followed a Unison survey showing that privately employed cleaners, receptionists, porters, security guards and catering staff are missing out on higher wages, and annual leave because they are not directly employed by the NHS.

Only one in seven of 1,650 people working in the NHS in England, Wales and Scotland but employed by private contractors, who were surveyed, said they receive the same pay and benefits as their NHS colleagues.

Half of respondents said they had worked on Covid wards, and a quarter caught the virus and had to take sick leave.

Unison general secretary, Christina McAnea, said: “Dividing the NHS workforce in this way is not good for patient care or staff morale. Everyone in the NHS is part of one big team, and they all deserve a proper pay rise, especially after the past year.

“The Prime Minister must abandon any thought of 1% when he finally makes his long overdue announcement on NHS pay. He should ensure staff get a decent rise, with funding extended to cover all health workers. No-one should be left behind.

“People working on the same wards, doing the same jobs as their colleagues shouldn’t be paid substantially less. That’s not just morally wrong, it’s unfair too.”