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From The Socialist newspaper, 30 September 2020

Underpaid, traumatised and leaving...

NHS workers need 15% rise and full funding

Demanding a 15% pay rise for NHS workers, 8th August 2020, Manchester, photo Sally G

Demanding a 15% pay rise for NHS workers, 8th August 2020, Manchester, photo Sally G   (Click to enlarge)

Ruth Byrne, NHS worker

As NHS staff face the second wave of Covid-19, we are also preparing another round of protests on 17 October calling for a pay rise.

Health and care staff put their lives on the line every day during the first wave of Covid-19, often with not enough or inadequate PPE. The rise we are asking for seems tiny when you think of the role workers played in holding the line.

The grassroots protests are calling for a 15% pay rise. Several unions are now calling for 15% or 3,000, whichever is higher. This should be just the start - most staff would need further rises even to match the pay they received before the Con-Dem coalition started slashing public sector wages in 2010.

36% of nurses are thinking about leaving the NHS in the next year, mainly due to low pay and the way they were treated during the Covid-19 crisis, according to a survey by the Royal College of Nursing. Already, 28% of nurses and health visitors leave their posts within three years of starting, finds the King's Fund.

The failures of the government have turned the rush of health professionals who came back to help the NHS during the first wave into a flood in the other direction.

It's not like the government isn't prepared to spend public money like water when it comes to handing out contracts to their friends in private companies. Notorious outsourcer Serco has received contracts for Covid-19 contact tracing worth up to 432 million, and for test centres worth 45 million.

According to doctors' union BMA, setting up Nightingale hospitals for three months cost around 350 million - yet they only treated around 100 patients.

Many NHS workers are furious that the testing service run so disastrously by Serco is allowed to brand itself as NHS. 'It's not the NHS! is a familiar cry.

Meanwhile, as Covid-19 cases increase, NHS labs are forced to prioritise Covid-19 tests, which means other urgent tests cannot always be done. The difference between privatised services and the NHS is that the first duty of the NHS is to patients, not company profits.

Staff still feel traumatised by the first wave. Many felt utterly unprepared for it.

Whole hospitals were unrecognisable. Staff were redeployed from very different jobs straight into high-risk areas like intensive care. They speak of the helplessness they felt as the normal treatments didn't work, watching patients suffer and die. Many have also lost valued colleagues to the disease.

Time off sick for stress and anxiety-related issues soared by 37% immediately after the height of the first wave. It is very frustrating seeing everything the government was warned about happening again.

The grassroots movement for a 15% pay rise has shown the huge anger and willingness to fight of NHS staff. It is absolutely crucial that the unions begin to harness that anger and determination, and actively prepare to call and coordinate strike action to demand a proper rise for all NHS staff.

This weak, divided government could be forced to U-turn on this as well. And this fight should be linked to calls for mass hiring and investment in NHS facilities, with all testing, health and care services brought fully into the public sector.

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The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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In The Socialist 30 September 2020:


Tory scheme won't halt mass unemployment: mobilise the unions!

Job Support Scheme - too little, too late

Under the microscope

News in brief

International news

Trump's failure over western US wildfires

US: Police escape justice over Breonna Taylor killing

South Africa: Working class unity to stop violence against women

What we think

Covid restrictions expose Tory splits


Students trapped on Covid campuses speak out

Apprehension about Covid - anger at fees, costs and exploitation

Black History Month

Still crawling at 60: Capitalism has failed Nigeria

Workplace news

Trade unions must fight to put their stamp on events

Usdaw elections: Defend members' right to participate

PCS: No to DWP management's plans - Yes to action

NHS workers need 15% rise and full funding

Fight BT redundancies

Peterborough CWU have massively voted for strike action

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Why I joined the Socialist Party: Labour moved right and left me behind

71,522 raised: We've smashed our target again

Selling the Socialist

Newham: Closed and evicted

Campaign for new King George Hospital wing gets boost

Solidarity not charity

Readers' opinion

The Socialist Inbox


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