I come from a family of health workers – nurses, paramedics, doctors, pharmacists and medical researchers. My own mother was a nurse and my father a doctor. To see nurses on strike is heartbreaking. But to understand the reasons is even more so. I’m told that nursing pay has fallen by around 20% over the last decade in real terms. This is not a political issue – it has fallen under both Labour and Conservative governments. It is simply a wilful failure to recognise or understand what nurses do – because, if they did understand, they would of course wish to reflect their commitment to their patients with salaries appropriate to their skills and learning.
Or so you might think. Even Boris Johnson, acknowledging that he owed his life after Covid infection to the actions of nurses he even went so far as naming publicly, became amnesic when asked about salaries in the sector. Cheaper to praise than to pay.
There are even those, unbelievable though it seems, who see fit to criticise nurses To hear nurses criticised by those who have never emptied a bedpan in their lives, changed a septic dressing or held a dying person’s hand is particularly galling. This is the first time nurses have gone on strike. Try to imagine how desperate they must be to do so. Desperate enough to leave the health service in many cases. Over the last year alone more than 40,000 nurses have left the NHS.
Parliament is full of specious reasons why nurses cannot be payed more. Most cynically risible up of all – the country cannot afford to increase their salaries – is palpably absurd. Over the last decade MP salaries have risen by 28% (from £65,738 £84,144. Nursing salaries, in real terms, have fallen by more than 20%.
Six years ago, I was taken as an emergency by ambulance to hospital and operated on. I was in hospital for a week, nursed by a team of nurses. Three years ago I was involved in a pretty horrible car crash which broke bones. It took weeks of nursing before I was back to something approaching normal. A year ago I had some very specialist brain surgery done (and no, I was not having a brain inserted). I was nursed, in rotation by some six nurses. I would not be alive were it not for nurses.
So before you criticise them ask yourself this one question. What do you do on any day of your life that matches what they do on every day of their life?
Now watch this video. It will help you understand