'It's more than wiping bottoms': Preston NHS support worker calls for fairer pay
An NHS healthcare assistant from Preston who wrote what became a viral social media post calling for more respect for the role - and better pay - now wants to get the matter debated in Parliament.
Shane Longton posted the message after hearing support staff like him being described as “unskilled” in recent media coverage of planned post-Brexit changes to the immigration system.
The 36-year-old took to Facebook to decry the notion that frontline care workers “only wipe bottoms and make cups of tea for people". He then listed almost forty tasks which he described as “not [being] half” of his duties - and encouraged people to ask themselves whether they could do the job.
The post has been shared more than 13,000 times and was spotted by a national newspaper. But speaking exclusively to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Shane revealed that the response to his message has given him hope that he could secure a Westminster debate on the issue.
“You need to start a petition and get 100,000 signatures, which is obviously a lot of people - but it must have struck a chord online, so you never know.
“You do get some trolls talking about the job we do in quite a repugnant way - so it’s been nice to give people an insight into our work”, explained Shane.
His message described how healthcare assistants are expected to meet a myriad of the most intimate personal care needs - as well as reassuring patients, supporting their families and carrying out a range of tests.
It is a rollcall of responsibilities which Shane says is undertaken by an often understaffed workforce, meaning he sometimes has no time even for a toilet break - and he believes it merits more than the minimum wage which many in the job receive.
“We do almost everything the old auxiliary nurses used to do - but we don’t get the same pay as they did even a few years ago.
“Sometimes it makes you laugh and sometimes it makes you cry - but I adore my job and can’t see myself ever doing anything else,” added Shane, who has been in the role for two years.
He said his employers have supported his social media message - but he has chosen not to name the organisation for which he works.
A spokesperson for the Department for Health and Social Care said in a statement that the lowest-paid NHS staff will be taking home more money from next year.
“Healthcare assistants are a vital part of the NHS and work incredibly hard to make sure patients get excellent care.
“We have given over one million staff a pay rise, including healthcare assistants - and the lowest starting salary in the NHS will rise by 16% by April 2021.”
That means the lowest NHS starting salary will have increased from £15,404 to £18,005 since 2018/19.
This is the list of tasks which Shane said in his Facebook post are not even the half of a healthcare assistant's responsibilities:
5) Apply creams.
6) Brushing hair/teeth.
7) Changing incontinence pads.
8)Provide emotional support when patients are sad.
9) Full body hoists, stand aids, walking with the patients from A to B.
10) Reassure patients when they're frightened, calming them down when they feel confused or irritated.
11) Help hand out all their meals and drinks, and assist those who cannot eat for themselves.
12) Catheter care.
13) Stoma care.
14) Turn patients and check their pressure areas every 2, 4 and sometimes every hour.
15) Remain calm and professional when they're hurling verbal and sometimes physical abuse at you.
16) Dementia care.
17) Alzheimers care.
18) Parkinsons care.
19) Tend to infectious patients in isolated rooms using special protective equipment.
20) End of life care.
21) Supporting families, reassuring them and keeping them informed of everything happening with their relative.
22) Dealing with complaints and apologising even though the situation is often 99% out of your control.
23) Acting fast when someone shows symptoms of a stroke, heart attack, fits, & various other conditions.
24) Drop everything and run to a patient every time they stand up or try to climb out of bed setting off their falls alarm.
25) Fill paperwork, each patient can have around 10-15 separate lots that have to be filled in 4-5 times a day sometimes more, times that by 24 patients!
26) Sometimes we have to hold our bladder for hours because we literally don't have time for the toilet.
27) Take bloods.
28) Check patients blood sugars x4 times a day.
29) Check patients blood pressures.
30) Bladder scan patients.
31) Weigh patients twice a week.
32) Make beds, that’s 2 sheets, a blanket, a top sheet and pillow cases for each bed for 24 patients!
33) Clean commodes.
34) Squeeze in the time to complete mandatory training.
35) Working alongside Occupational & physio therapists with rehab for patients. Giving feed back to the therapy teams when patients are doing better or getting worse.
36) Care for patients with learning difficulties, which requires a lot of awareness, empathy and understanding.