Health service staff were excluded from the wage increase for around 900,000 public sector workers announced a couple of weeks ago because they are in the final year of a three-year pay deal.
Instead they are due a pay rise next April, but unions want the government to show its appreciation for NHS staff by bringing it forward to this year.
More than 500 health workers have died so far following exposure to coronavirus.
Now they will be staging socially-distanced protests to demand the government recognises their role in the Covid-19 fight through higher wages.
Protesters have been gathering in St James’ Park in London since 11am, and plan to march along Whitehall to Downing Street and end with a rally in Parliament Square.
Another 30 demonstrations have been organised in towns and cities across the country – including, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield.
Unite national officer for health, Jackie Williams, said: “In a decade of Tory austerity, NHS staff has seen their pay cut by 20% in real terms – and no amount of Thursday evening clapping and warm ministerial words can compensate for this dramatic loss in income.”
A recent survey by Unison suggested more than two-thirds (69%) of people think all NHS employees should be awarded a rise this year.
Claudia Webbe, Labour MP for Leicester East, said: “This crisis has shown that the people who really matter and keep our society ticking are not billionaires and the super-rich, but nurses, carers, cleaners, checkout attendants and many more essential frontline workers.”
She added: “We can no longer live in a society where health workers are underpaid, frontline workers are undervalued or our NHS is starved of funding.”
The Met Police said it had a policing strategy in place to cover the protests, adding: “We are aware that a number of...