In the battle against Coronavirus, our NHS workers have been on the frontline more than anyone else. They’ve put their lives on the line day after day, week after week, month after month to provide care and treatment to those in need. Sadly, hundreds have died. Those that have not been seriously ill themselves have been overstretched and in the most stressful situations imaginable. They have had to deal first-hand with the terrible consequences of this virus, which has so far killed around 125,000 people in the UK.
Witnessing so much death and suffering with all resources stretched beyond breaking point has unsurprisingly had a huge impact on staff. Studies suggest that almost 40% of ICU staff are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
We owe such a lot to the staff in our NHS for all that they do and have done. In my view, this doesn’t just mean praise, applause or admiration – their service, dedication and hard work should be reflected in their pay. It is nothing short of a disgrace, therefore, that the Government has decided to offer a pay rise of just 1%. In real terms, this is a pay cut. Let that sink in – the Tories are “rewarding” our NHS workers with a real terms pay cut.
Boris Johnson and the rest of them have been full of warm words for our NHS, but when it comes down to it, this is what they decide to do. And it is a decision – as with all public spending, last week’s Budget was a question of priorities and Johnson and Sunak have decided not to prioritise paying our NHS staff properly. Not even after all that they have done in the past year – it’s truly insulting.
Part of the Government’s rationale for this is that it would be unfair on private sector workers to give this pay rise. This doesn’t stack up. During this crisis, the Government has – rightly in my view – directly supported millions of workers, largely in the private sector, through furlough. In comparison, the cost of giving our NHS workers a decent pay rise is tiny. Again, it comes back to priorities.
Without the dedication and hard work of our NHS workers (and others such as our care workers who remain massively underpaid) Covid would have overwhelmed our country and many thousands more would have died. The Prime Minister would do well to remember this. If he’s to do yet another u-turn, he should save everyone a lot of hassle and get it done now.