“The NHS workforce has endured thirteen years of stagnating wages and overwork… other than a cheap clap on the steps of Downing Street they’ve received nothing in return from the Tory government.”
By Jon Trickett MP
This week the paramedics have been on strike for the second time in recent months. In a couple of weeks time the nurses will be out again. They need all of our support.
When the history books are written about this decade, our NHS workers will be the unsung heroes for their selfless dedication to caring for the sick during the Covid pandemic. At great risk to themselves they worked relentlessly to help those in need.
How in the world have we ended up in a situation where the “key workers” who were applauded each week by the nation during the dark days of lockdown are taking strike action?
Going on strike is not an easy decision for any worker to make. But for NHS workers this decision must be gut-wrenching.
These are people who look after us when we’re at our most vulnerable. They hold newborn babies as they enter this world and the hands of the dying as they leave it. They witness some of the most joyous moments of our lives, as well as the most devastating. They care about the patients under their supervision. They care about us.
When I speak to NHS staff in my area I always hear the same thing. They say to me: “Jon, I’m not just striking for myself, I’m striking to save the NHS.”
When you look at the facts you can see why they see this dispute as about much more than themselves. The latest figures from the British Medical association shows an all-time record high of 7.2 million people are waiting for treatment in elective care. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that excess deaths in 2022 were the worst for 50 years.
The truth is the NHS workforce has endured thirteen years of stagnating wages and overwork. They’ve seen funding cuts decimate NHS capacity and reduce the standard of patient care. They’ve witnessed multiple reorganisations that increase the role of private health companies and make caring for patients more difficult. They’ve watched the NHS go from crisis to crisis with no solution in sight. Other than a cheap clap on the steps of Downing Street they’ve received nothing in return from the Tory government.
Throughout history we see moments when workers refuse to put up with being disrespected any longer. Now, at this moment, our NHS workers have had enough. Who can possibly blame them?
Many NHS workers are opting to leave the profession altogether. Total NHS vacancies now stand at 133,446. Total vacancies increased from 7.9% in 2021 to 9.7% in 2022.
We cannot begin to address the problems in our NHS without paying NHS workers properly. If we do not pay them properly then even more will simply choose to leave a job that even the Chair of the NHS Confederation admitted has become “unbearable”.
Nor can we provide a solution to the chronic problems in the NHS without giving it a large increase in funding. Pouring in money isn’t the answer to everything but after over a decade of cuts it is clearly a major part of the problem. Any politician who refuses to engage with this fact is not being honest with NHS staff or with the public.
Government Minister’s distort the truth when they say they’ve put record funding into the NHS. Average day-to-day UK government spending on healthcare between 2010 and 2019 was 18% below the EU14 average. You cannot have a world class healthcare system on the cheap.
Our NHS can be rebuilt but it won’t happen through increasing the role of private companies under the guise of “modernisation.” We must start by giving the NHS, and all who work in it, the resources they need to make it flourish once again.
- JonTrickett is the MP for Hemsworth and a regular contributor to Labour Outlook. You can follow him on Facebook, Instagram and twitter.
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