By Lottie Kilraine @LKilraine
Nurses from the hospital which treated the Prime Minister staged a protest after being “betrayed” by the Chancellor’s refusal to grant a pay rise.
Nurses at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Trust say they feel like “forgotten heroes” following the announcement last week that some public sector workers will receive increases of up to 3.1 per cent.
The socially-distanced protest was organised by the trade union Unite and saw nurses and other key workers march from St Thomas’ Hospital to number 10 Downing Street as part of a four-hour protest.
Fazilah Fatimah, 26, who works in the intensive care unit at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said she will be joining the protest after the government’s announcement left her feeling “undervalued and completely demoralised”.
She said: “As a nurse I feel we are seen as door mats because we are known for being treated badly but carrying on and the government has made us feel as though we are not even valued in society.
“This protest is to say no, we are not standing for this anymore.
“If people understood the skills required to undertake our job, along with its impact on our physical and mental health, they would realise why we are so disheartened by the decisions regarding our pay.”
One of the marchers, Sophia Lee, from Southwark, said: “A lot of attendees seemed to be NHS staff, which indicated to me that this whole issue has been massively underplayed by the media.
“I have a close friend who is an ICU nurse at St Thomas’ hospital. She is one of the most resilient people I know, but what nurses went through during the height of the pandemic was indescribable. Had I not heard her experience first hand, I simply wouldn’t have been aware of exactly how harrowing this has been for NHS workers. This goes beyond risking infection to keep their jobs.
“The emotional and psychological toll of treating patients around the clock, helping them say goodbye to their loved ones and dealing with complete uncertainty of what will happen next will not disappear overnight. Recognising their work financially is the bare minimum that the government can do. It’s a disgrace.
“I felt completely safe throughout the whole protest. Everyone wore a mask and we regularly reminded by speakers to socially distance so we were very much spaced out. The crowd were mostly healthcare professionals as well so they could be trusted to know what they were doing.”
It was announced last week that doctors, dentists, teachers, judges and police officers will be among those to receive the pay increases, while nurses, junior doctors, hospital porters and cleaners were all absent from the list.
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said that nurses were not included as a result of a three-year “Agenda for Change” pay and contract reform deal that was agreed with NHS trade unions in 2018.
He said: “We are incredibly grateful for all their hard work and dedication during the pandemic, and we will continue to ensure all staff are rewarded fairly.
“We are expecting the NHS Pay Review Body, which covers Agenda for Change staff within its remit, to return to making recommendations for next year’s pay awards.”
But many medics have criticised the response.
Lauren Welsh, 25, is a critical care nurse who worked on the front line in an intensive care unit, and said: “One of the terms agreed as part of this deal was that, should circumstances change, the pay deal could be reviewed earlier than the three years planned.
“I think we can all agree that a global pandemic could be one of the biggest changes in circumstances that the NHS and the entire world could have ever faced.”
Intensive care nurse Sokila Begum, 27, who has been caring for Covid-19 patients at a hospital in London, also believes nurses should have been put on the list for their work on the front line.
She said: “These pay rises acknowledge the work of the professions on that list which is important, but when you leave nurses out you make it known to us that those feelings I had at the start and end of a shift were not warranted.
“After eight weeks of clapping, I feel completely betrayed and as though what myself and my colleagues went through was just expected of us as our duty. It feels as though we are not even seen as humans.
“It takes away from the fact that I am someone’s daughter, wife, sister and friend who went through something unprecedented at work.
“This whole situation makes me feel angry and sad but I still want to carry on looking after my patients.
“Nurses are tired, and this is why the protest is so important, we need people to support us.”
Wednesday’s protest will be followed by a nationwide protest on August 8 to demand a pay increase for all NHS staff.
Pictured top: A previoius protest
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