Boris Johnson can't clap his way out of this one: our NHS workers deserve better 1 month ago

Boris Johnson can't clap his way out of this one: our NHS workers deserve better

They held our hands as we died, and they died saving our lives: a one per cent pay rise is a slap in the face

At least 225 NHS workers have died from Covid-19 during the pandemic, and the figure is likely to be higher - with countless more suffering from "Long Covid".

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If the pandemic were a war, our NHS staff are on the front lines. But we should avoid using war comparisons - because it suggests the deaths of our NHS staff (and citizens) were an inevitability instead of a consequence of government ineptitude. 

At the start of the pandemic, NHS workers stood firm in the midst of a deadly and novel virus. They still turned up to work, and continue to now - despite the unknowns, and despite the fact that government had provided a lack of PPE, leaving them vulnerable to death. 

They showed a level of bravery and selflessness that few could emulate - and lost their lives in the process. Not only this, but deaths were particularly high among those from Black and Asian backgrounds - groups which experience societal, and structural, racism on a daily basis. Last year Dr Chaand Nagpaul, British Medical Association council chair, said "tangible and urgent action" was needed to understand these disparities.

As wave after wave of the pandemic crashed into our NHS hospitals and flooded our wards - supercharged by reckless, negligent, and chaotic government policies - the NHS stood firm. While our death toll now stands at over 120,000, without our NHS staff it would be catastrophically higher. And its not just the virus that is affecting the health of our NHS staff. Data shows that the mental and emotional well-being of hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers is at breaking point. 

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Research by the University of Birmingham has found that over 34 per cent of hospital healthcare workers have experienced significant symptoms of anxiety, with over 31 per cent reporting depression. When it comes to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the figure is nearly 25 per cent. 

And it’s not over yet. 

Covid deaths in hospitals are still in their hundreds, with cases in their thousands, and over a year on, NHS staff work tirelessly to keep them alive.

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It's become normal to see nurses and doctors sobbing on television, telling the country that they don't know how much more they can take. And many NHS staff have had to stay separate from their families, who may be clinically vulnerable to the virus, for almost a year to keep them safe.

So, over a year into the pandemic, after a year of a living hell, you would think that our government would express their thanks with at least a pay rise? You know, the NHS that saved Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s life when he fell gravely ill with Covid-19? Despite the fact that, just weeks before, he said he went around hospitals shaking Covid patients hands?

WRONG. 

They’re getting a mere one per cent. 

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That’s right - one. per. cent.

£3.50 a week.

 

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Not only this, but that one per cent is below the inflation predicted for next year - meaning, in real terms, its a wage cut.  This also comes after NHS parking charges in England have returned, and while the pandemic in hospitals is by no means over. 

But what do we, the public, think of all this?

A recent poll found that 75 per cent of people supported a permanent 10 per cent pay rise for staff, and 79 per cent said they supported an annual pay rise above the rate of inflation. 

Unsurprisingly, and understandably, trade unions have hit the roof - and Labour have come out swinging at the revelations. Today the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has set up a £35 million industrial action fund in response to the government's recommendation of one per cent pay.

Perhaps, if the government hadn’t handed billions of pounds to their mates to create a failed track and trace system and wasted money on faulty PPE, they may have been able to try to build a case to defend this.

Matt Hancock sipping water at a Covid-19 press briefing Matt Hancock (Credit: WPA Pool) 

But the fact they have handed billions of pounds to their cronies, as well as used taxpayer money to foot the bill for payouts over Priti Patel's alleged bullying, and as well as paying for the royal family - whose main priority at the moment seems to be attacking a pregnant Meghan Markle - questions arise about what the government’s priorities are.

Should we be paying for government cronies, monarchies, and dodgy ministers? Or paying the people that save our lives - who deliver us into the world, look after us throughout our lives, and die for us trying to save us during a pandemic?

Enough is enough. Our NHS healthcare workers deserve better.

And the government won't be able to clap their way out of this one.