NHS staff staged protests this week over emergency work pay rates.

Staff in the cardiology department at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton took to the streets to highlight a 20-year pay freeze for on-call rates.

Nigel Holtam, a cardiac radiographer from Saltdean, took annual leave to demonstrate.

The 44-year-old, who has worked for Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust for 16 years, said: “I work with heart attack patients. I’m protesting about on-call emergency work, which is anything out of hours.

“Since I qualified in 2004 we’ve been paid the same amount for being available during emergency hours, and obviously we don’t feel this is fair.”

Nigel said radiographers are paid a “bleep rate” of £11.52 for being on call from 5pm until 9am the next morning. He said: “Agenda For Change, which was brought in in 2008 across the whole NHS, stated everyone should get a percentage of their salary, depending on the frequency of the on-call agreement.

“But for some reason the radiologists are not on this rate for out-of-hours work.

“We’ve done everything we can to get an inflationary raise. There was a consultation last year but it just disappeared under the carpet.”

Basia Chmiel, another cardiac radiographer who lives in Horsted Keynes, north of Haywards Heath, said she is on call at least once a week and for a full weekend every five weeks.

The 58-year-old said: “If you’re on call on a Thursday, you’re totally wiped out by the weekend. They are happy for us to take on that responsibility but they do not seem to think about their own duty of care.”

Nigel, who has been protesting every morning this week outside the A&E department at the hospital, has set up online petition, which has more than 200 signatures so far.

He said: “I don’t want to take annual leave just to get something so simple addressed. Managers are getting awarded bonuses and they are not even getting back to us. It’s appalling.”

A spokesman for Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals said: “It’s vitally important we have the right number and combination of skilled staff, providing the highest levels of care for our patients seven days a week.

“Discussions about on-call arrangements with staff continue and we expect to have made progress by the end of the month.”