It’s August. It’s hard to believe that 5 months ago the country was in complete lockdown because of a deadly virus. Besides the addition of face coverings, the high street looks normal, the panic and anguish gone. The constant reminders that were once dissermated across every form of social media and news outlets have been replaced by trivial rubbish like “American water pressure set to increase as it effects Donald Trumps hair care routine.”…
One thing that has been forgotten is the NHS and all the key workers who continued to provide a service during one of the UK’s darkest times. Despite the weekly clap, which was designed to show solidarity between us and the rest of the country and ended after ten weeks, the public seems to have completely forgotten about us. The biggest slap in the face had to be when the government announced a well deserved pay rise to some key worker groups such as the police and those in the education industry… but not for NHS staff.
Around 2 years ago, nurses (and allied professionals) won an appeal to get a 6.5% pay rise over three years which is a decent increase for the work that we do however does that mean we shouldn’t get an acknowledgement? Now, I’m going to say something controversial: We (band 5’s) get paid a good amount of money. Working in the industry, the topic of pay is never far away. As soon as someone mentioned it, the coffee room roars with different practitioners pleading their case. Most people come to an agreement that we don’t get paid enough for the job we do, the things we see. And I do agree to some extent. Boris Johnson will never have to stand for 10+ hours, sterile with nothing more than a meter square to move around in while we re-vascularise someone’s hand or patch up a leaking aneurysm that could rupture at any minute, leading to the patient bleeding out in a matter of minutes. Lest we forget that our ‘dear’ Prime Minister was also in HDU with Covid-19 requiring helps from the very organisation he now refuses to acknowledge.
Healthcare professionals across the country were insulted by the lack of pay rise (and recognition) so on Saturday 8th August, marches were held across England to demand a 15% pay rise (influenced by the 14% pay rise awarded to french healthcare workers across the channel). A colleague and I decided to attend our local march in Norwich. I wasn’t interested in protesting for a 15% pay rise (I can’t imagine that would ever happen), I was protesting for my department, my trust, my sanity that had all suffered during the pandemic but has been merely swept under the carpet. Acknowledgment.
Setting off, guarded by police, placards in hand, we marched silently down the cobbled streets of Norwich. At first, nobody paid much attention to us, after all, we weren’t shouting out what our cause was but as soon as we entered the high street, heads began to turn followed by the sound of clapping. Once one person started applauding us, others joined in and there was this bitter sweet moment of solidarity between us and the public. They hadn’t forgotten, in fact they were standing by our side. People cheered us while we remained silent (I felt incredibly rude ignoring their support) and continued along our little route of the city. When we arrived back at Chapelfield Gardens, we were able to break our silence and cheer one another. Several of the protest organisers presented powerful, heartfelt speeches along with a two minute silence to remember the 500+ key workers who lost their lives during the peak of the pandemic. It was incredibly moving.
This was my first ever protest/march and the range of emotions I felt were breathtaking. Amongst to the outrage, the stress, the exhaustion (still in need of some annual leave… 7 months and counting), I felt an overwhelming sense of belonging. To be surrounded by my peers uniting over the same unrest that spanned multiple sectors, it felt like a family I didn’t realise I was part of. But above all else, I felt proud. Proud of the public for standing with us, for encouraging us as we passed in an eerie silence. I felt proud of myself for standing up for something I believe in and even though I didn’t attend the protest hoping for a pay rise, I turned it into an opportunity for me, to march for something I feel we need. And finally, I felt proud of every key worker who has powered through this dark time to provide a service that in one way or another has helped this country run and protect those furloughed and shielding.
The NHS isn’t just doctors and nurses. It isn’t just university educated people or for the highly privileged. It isn’t just hospitals or doctors surgeries. We are an organisation of Nurses, ODP’s (me), Support workers, Doctors (at every level and there are a lot of levels), Dentists, Cleaners, Receptionist, Paramedics, District help, Emergency call operators, Switch board operators, Engineers, Scientists, Volunteers, Bereavement councillors, Therapists, Dietitian, Osteopaths, Radiographers, phlebotomists, Chefs, Students, Community ambulance drivers, Pharmacists, Physiotherapist, Midwives, Morticians, Apprentices, Carers, Podiatrist, Social workers, Porters, Lab technician, Nursing associates, Patients, the Public…We are the NHS.