Nearly 100 nurses and NHS staff who have battled the Covid-19 pandemic took part in the cross-union action to kick off a summer of protests
Image: TIM ANDERSON)
Exhausted NHS workers from the hospital which saved Boris Johnson have marched on Downing Street to protest the “grossly inadequate” 3% pay rise – warning the health service will keep haemorrhaging staff.
Nearly 100 nurses and NHS staff who have battled the Covid-19 pandemic took part in the cross-union action to kick off a summer of protests over the “paltry” offer.
Nurses from London hospitals, including St Thomas’, where the Prime Minister spent three nights in intensive care last year after contracting Covid-19, joined the march from the central London hospital to his doorstep, chanting: “Boris Johnson hear our shout – pay us properly or get out.”
It comes as unions prepare to consult members on possible strike action over the pay row.
Frontline staff had demanded a decent pay increase after a decade of below-inflation deals which has left many around 15% worse off in real terms.
But exhausted NHS staff, reeling after 18 months of sacrifice, were devastated by the 3% offer recommended by the Pay Review Body (PRB) for NHS workers in England last week.
Unite rep Dave Carr, a critical charge nurse at St Thomas’ Hospital, admitted he is “desperate” to hand in his notice after struggling against a staffing crisis while battling Covid-19.
“This isn’t just about money in our pockets, it’s about investing in staff to keep them at work,” he told the Mirror, adding conditions are already that of a “winter crisis”.
“The third wave is on the rise now and everyone is on their knees. We can’t take any more of this. We are ground down.
“People are anxious about the third wave arriving and expecting us to clear this backlog. I think it’s not about waiting for the NHS to collapse – I think it’s collapsing now.”
The nurse, who has been in the NHS since 1982, said recruitment cannot keep pace with the rate of experienced staff leaving the health service.
He said he is “desperate to hand in his notice” after the horrors of the pandemic but stays for the sake of his colleagues and patients.
“I am just fed up with working for an institution which tries it’s best but is being let down by government on a daily basis,” he told the Mirror.
Dave sees his nursing staff in tears on a daily basis facing the pressures of unfilled vacancies, Covid-19 and attempting to clear the backlog caused by the crisis.
He added: “Alot of us have been broken by the pandemic. One of the reasons we are so gutted is that we have nurses whose partners are in the military. They say what we have done is akin to a tour of duty. That’s the PTSD we are dealing with.”
He warned staff are ready to strike after being pushed to the brink.
He added: “Every single member of staff I speak to says they want to go on strike. If we could go on strike tomorrow then we would.”
Emma Murphy, 35, a bank critical nurse and nurse transfusion practitioner at a London hospital said the pay rise is not about money for nurses – it’s about patient safety.
She said: “I was upset and worried because the announcement of 3% is short sighted for the future of the NHS and the retention of staff. The government is knowingly cutting the pay of nursing staff in real terms and this contributes to the loss of staff and in turn, patient safety.”
A survey in March found one in four NHS workers is more likely to quit than a year ago.
She added: “The only way that staff are going to be retained is by giving them a meaningful payrise. It isn’t to line our pockets it’s patient safety.
“Most nurses live in shared accommodation with no chance of getting on the property ladder. And that is for a highly skilled profession that needs a degree.”
She called for the government to “make the right choice to respect and value nurses”.
Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “We fully support our health members in their protest at the grossly inadequate and underwhelming 3% pay recommendation.
“We believe that the public shares our disgust at this paltry offer which reinforces our resolve for pay justice.
“The Government decision to accept the NHS Pay Review Body’s recommendation was too little and too late after we have been asking for an early and significant pay rise for health workers for over a year.
“Three per cent will do very little to staunch the escalating recruitment and retention crisis. It is estimated there are 100,000 vacancies in the health service and very little in the way of a plan to recruit the numbers needed.”